Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE DISCIPLE’S CONFESSION AND THE MASTER’S WARNING”

John 16.29-32 

The day before the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified was a full day for the twelve apostles. It was the day they would celebrate the Passover with the Lord. To prepare for the Passover, the Lord Jesus Christ exercised His kingly right of requisition, as He had on the day of His triumphal entry when He requisitioned a donkey colt to ride into the city the previous Sunday.[1]

On this Thursday, however, the King of the Jews requisitioned the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover with His twelve apostles.[2] After the food had been obtained and properly prepared, and the room had been cleaned and arranged for the Passover meal, the Master and His twelve men gathered.

During the time they spent in the Upper Room, the Lord Jesus Christ astonished His apostles by washing their feet.[3] He amazed His men by announcing that one of them would betray Him.[4] He gave the sop ordinarily reserved for the favored guest to His betrayer.[5] He dispatched His betrayer to consummate his wicked plan.[6] And He stood to lead His “little flock” to the Garden of Gethsemane.[7]

As they walked from the Upper Room eastward toward the Mount of Olives, they passed in front of the main entrance to Herod’s Temple. He instituted the communion of the Lord’s Supper after eating the Passover meal in John chapter 13. The Savior comforted His men in John chapter 14.

He assured them that He was the way, the truth, and the life and that apart from Him, there was no access to the Father.[8] He also comforted them with the assurance that He would prepare a place for them and that they would eventually dwell together.[9] He urged His men to obey His commandments and spoke to them of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.[10]

In John chapter fifteen, He taught profound spiritual truths to them using an allegory, describing Himself as the True Vine. No doubt, this shocked His men, who had grown up being taught that Israel was God’s vine. One can only imagine how greater the impact of the Savior’s declaration as they passed on front of the Temple, with its carvings of vine branches and clusters representing the nation Israel.[11]

His allegory also identified His Father as the Husbandman, with genuine disciples of Christ being fruitful branches.[12] The theme of the allegory? Abide in Christ to be fruitful. He emphasized that He had chosen them rather than they choosing Him, that they should love one another, and that the world would hate them because the world first hated Him.[13] The hatred that exists between Christ and the world can only be resolved on an individual basis when a sinner turns to Christ for the forgiveness of sins. As they continued walking East toward the Mount of Olives, the Lord expanded on what He had earlier said about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, how this other Comforter would guide them into all truth and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.[14]

Previous to this message, I pointed out that the Lord Jesus Christ summarized His entire redemptive work in a single verse, that verse being John 16.28, where the Lord Jesus Christ said, 

“I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.” 

Throughout that ancient evening, during and following their time spent in the Upper Room, the Lord and His men had conversed, with them sometimes responding to Him with statements that revealed their lack of understanding. But His comment recorded in verse 28 produced a reaction from them that led to a revealing exchange. John 16.29-32: 

29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.

30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.

31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe?

32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 

Let us explore this brief exchange, their reaction and the Lord’s response to their reaction, in three parts: 

First, THEIR CONFESSION 

29 His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.

30 Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee: by this we believe that thou camest forth from God. 

These two verses provide a superb overview of the development of their faith as believers, from the perspective of what can be observed apart from the invisible but crucial role of the Holy Spirit, the Author of faith. According to Second Corinthians 4.13, notice to whom the Apostle Paul attributes a believer’s faith: 

“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” 

Understand well that faith is not something conjured up by any individual. Neither is faith produced by manipulative means. The preacher does not generate faith in an audience by his oratorical skills, nor does any individual produce faith in his own life in response to his determination or personal decisions. The Spirit of God produces faith.

That said, the Spirit of God makes use of means to produce faith. When I speak of means, I am suggesting that the Spirit of God does not zap people and spontaneously produce faith in them. Rather, He produces faith through the use of a mechanism, an implement, a tool, an activity. His primary means of producing faith is the declaration of the truth of God’s Word when someone hears it preached or taught (and, of course, when it is read). Romans 10.17 addresses this reality: 

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” 

James 1.18 also addresses this reality: 

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” 

As well, may I point out that we have no indication from Scripture that faith is always produced when someone hears the Word of God preached or taught? In Second Thessalonians 3.2, the Apostle Paul declared to that congregation, “all men have not faith.” Thus, some who are exposed to Bible truth by various means are not given faith by the Spirit of faith. Also, and this bears on the faith of the eleven remaining apostles before us, there is no indication that faith will necessarily be produced instantaneously by the Spirit of God as one hears Bible truth. In some cases, faith is given by the Spirit of God as they are receiving Bible truth. In other cases, faith is given by the Spirit of God after the passage of time and their hearing of Bible truth. This seems to be the sense of Isaiah 55.11: 

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” 

I bring this up because the apostles were exposed to Bible as they heard the Savior preach and teach for three and one-half years. Yet, their faith was not always the immediate result of the truth they were exposed to. I would suggest the Spirit of God gradually gave them faith, with that faith not always being either strong or of much depth initially. In the past, they seemed to recognize that reality when, in Luke 17.5, they said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

Let us learn for our benefit from what they experienced.

The eleven remaining apostles responded to what the Savior said in John 16.28 by saying, 

“Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.” 

The other three Gospel writers preferred to use the Greek word parάbol to identify the Lord’s tendency to create short stories to teach spiritual truths, which we call parables if they are short, and allegories if they are longer. John’s Gospel never uses that Greek word, preferring instead the word that is here translated “proverb,” the word paroimίa. Why the different choice of words in John’s Gospel? I don’t know. Perhaps writing his Gospel three decades later than Matthew, Mark, and Luke were written, some slight differences in the meanings of the Greek words were taking place in the conversational lives of Greek speakers. So, he used a different word to express what the Lord was doing.

Important to us is the essence of what they said. It was something akin to, “Your teaching style is different than we’ve heard you speak before. You are easier to understand now.” In this comment, we see that they made an observation. They were paying attention. That’s the first thing to take note of. Sometimes people make observations by listening when the Bible is being taught or actively listening to the Gospel being preached. On this occasion, observation was made by paying close attention to the Savior speaking.

Next, following their observation, they declared in so many words that they had arrived at a conclusion

“Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee.” 

People draw conclusions all the time, you and I included. Barely a minute passes without each of us arriving at some type of conclusion about something we have knowingly or unknowingly observed, be that observation by sight, by hearing, or by other means. We constantly gather information and routinely draw conclusions from the information we gather. But when you gather information about spiritual matters, when your observations are of spiritual realities, you are functioning on a different plane. Read the Bible, listen to the Bible being read, listen to a Gospel sermon, listen to a Bible lesson, or listen to the Savior talking, and you are bound to arrive at a decision of some kind based on what you have observed.

You can observe by reading, by watching, by listening. But when you make observations, it is in your nature as a human being to draw conclusions, to make decisions, to arrive at conclusions about the information you have gathered, to decide about the observations you have made. Do you believe it? Or do you discard it? Do you act upon it? Or do you dismiss it? You do that, the one or the other, almost unconsciously, on a constant basis.

So, what conclusion did the apostles make about what they had observed? What decision did they arrive at based upon the information they had gathered? Did they believe or discard? Did they act or dismiss? Their observation of the Lord Jesus Christ, their ongoing gathering of information related to everything about Him (what He said and did), brought them to a conviction about Christ’s omniscience: 

“Now are we sure that thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask thee.” 

And what did their conclusion produce? What was the result of them accepting what they had observed and concluded as true, as important, as relevant, as meaningful, as significant? Faith! 

“by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” 

Their confession meant more than most who read this statement think it means at first glance. This statement, for example, has implications far beyond John 1.6, where we read, 

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” 

Verse 30 is an assertion of Christ’s deity. To express the belief that Christ came forth from God is an expression of faith regarding His essence being the same as God’s essence! This is remarkable. It is also wonderful. 

Then, CHRIST’S QUESTION 

31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 

One commentator writes that this is the sad question and foreboding of the Master.[15] His point was that the Savior did not so much cast doubt on the reality of their faith as on the permanence and power of their faith. Remember that He had recently told them, 

“All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad,” 

Matthew 26.31. Therefore, the Lord’s question was not a rejection of their expression of faith to Him, but a recognition of how fragile their faith was, and how dependent believers are for the maintenance of our faith. Recall the insight of the father of the demon-possessed child shortly after the Mount of Transfiguration experience when the Lord queried him about his faith: 

“The father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”[16] 

What lessons can be learned from the Lord’s questioning of His apostle’s bold confession? There are three: “One is that the dear Lord accepts imperfect surrender, ignorant faith and love, of which He knows that it will soon turn to denial.”[17] The Savior is so good, and His willingness to accept our imperfections is so crucial to our well-being. Friend, there is no such thing as perfect faith that is not mixed with doubt, only the immature conviction that your faith is not mingled with some doubts. Next, how important it is for us to reflect well so that our inner life corresponds to our words and professions. So, while there are some believers who are crippled by their excessively scrupulous examination of their motives and actions, insisting on perfection and consistency impossible this side of eternity, a proper balance between your profession and your practice is desirable. Praise God that Peter did learn to live up to his pronouncements, which is needful. Thirdly, be careful about your emotions and reliance upon your experiences. These men were very sincere in what they said, and their faith was real without being as substantial as they imagined it to be. But what happened when the crisis came? They ran. Why did they run? Let us not be too hard on them for doing what we do so often when painful circumstances reveal to us that we have trusted our trusting rather than trusting our Lord. 

Finally, CHRIST’S COMPANION 

32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. 

Look closely at what the Savior points out in this final verse: 

“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come.” 

The Lord is saying, “Remember what I previously told you about what I knew you would do when the time came, how you would abandon ship, run for the lifeboats, and cry out ‘Every man for himself?’ That time is right about now.” Consider these three assertions He makes, almost in the face of the disciple’s (especially Peter’s) insistence that they would never abandon Him: 

“ye shall be scattered” 

“every man to his own” 

“ye ... shall leave me alone” 

What is the Savior pointing out? He is pointing out that He will soon be bereft of human companionship. He will soon be entirely alone in His humanity on a human level. As the psalmist wrote, 

“no man cared for my soul.”[18] 

However, and thankfully, He does not stop there: 

“and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” 

Soon to be deprived of human companionship, the Lord asserts that He is not alone. The Father is with Him. God will not forsake Him. In that, He is greatly comforted, and the disciples were wonderfully encouraged. They will soon fail their Lord, but they will remember that His heavenly Father did not fail Him. 

Perhaps you are thinking ahead to the next day, to the crucifixion, and when the Lord Jesus Christ was hanging from the cross. After the darkness of the sixth to the ninth hour, the Lord Jesus Christ cried out, “My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”[19]

Are you concerned that the statement the Lord Jesus Christ made in John 16.32 seems to contradict what He said the next day on the cross? Does it seem inconsistent to you that the Savior would assert His Father’s faithfulness to Him on Thursday evening but decry His Father forsaking Him the next day?

Let me address that concern. There was a necessary reason God the Father forsook His Son on the cross. God was not being unfaithful to His Son when He forsook His Son on the cross. Instead, God the Father was being faithful to His divine attributes, faithful to holiness and righteousness, by responding to the Lord Jesus Christ in such a way after our sins had been imputed to Him, once He had become sin for us. God was thereby true to Himself.

What would you suggest the holy God do in the face of sin when His Son became sin for us? What would you suggest the holy God do to demonstrate His holiness in response to His Son’s imputed sinfulness? Would God be righteous without a righteous response to His Son’s imputed unrighteousness? Nothing else could be done other than what was done.

Once the Lord Jesus Christ took upon Himself my sins, His course was set. He had become sin Who knew no sin. It was therefore required that His righteous Father punish Him with the wrath and fury that I deserved. The Lawgiver thereby satisfied the just demands of the Law that the soul that sinneth shall surely die.

Aren’t you glad He did? Aren’t you glad the Lord Jesus Christ became sin? I am. I am so thankful He died on the cross for me, bore my sins on the cross, paid the penalty for my transgressions, and shed His blood for the forgiveness of my sins.

For me to be forgiven, the Father had to punish the Innocent as guilty and had to punish the wrongdoing done by the wrong in the Person of the One who had done no wrong. The Father had to forsake His Son to punish sin, my sin, so that He could then forgive the sinner ... me.

God is not Allah. Rather, God is righteous. God is just. God is holy. God is true. He cannot be true to His righteous and holy nature by pretending sins had not been committed, by forgiving them apart from sins being punished. No. He is true to His holiness and righteousness by His punishment of His Son, Jesus Christ, thereby punishing sins so He can righteously and justly forgive the sinners who trust His Son.

Won’t you trust Christ? If you do not trust Christ, you must suffer the punishment God’s holiness and righteousness demands for your sins, and that punishment will be throughout eternity. However, if you do trust Christ, His suffering on the cross becomes the satisfaction God demands as the proper and full payment for sins committed against Him.

Trust Christ as your Savior without delay.

__________

[1] Matthew 21.1-7

[2] Matthew 26.17-19

[3] John 13.1-20

[4] John 13.21-30

[5] John 13.26

[6] John 13.27

[7] John 14.31

[8] John 14.4-6

[9] John 14.3

[10] John 14.15-16

[11] Andreas J. Köstenberger, John - ECNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), pages 446, 450.

[12] John 15.1-8

[13] John 15.12-19

[14] John 16.7-14

[15] Alexander Maclaren, The Holy Of Holies: Sermons on Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Chapters of the Gospel of John, (London: Alexander & Shepheard, 1890), page 364.

[16] Mark 9.24

[17] Maclaren, page 364.

[18] Psalm 142.4

[19] Matthew 27.46

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