Gospel of John 16: 5-11 (NIV)
5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
On the night he was to be betrayed, Jesus addressed his disciples in the upper room. He had washed their feet. He had explained he would be with them only a little while longer. Judas had already departed to prepare his act of betrayal.
Jesus’ joy at the prospect of returning to be with the Father should have been a source of joy for his disciples too but he saw that they were “filled with grief” (verse 6). He told them why it was for their good that he was about to depart. He would send them the Counsellor, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit (verse 7). Then “the Spirit of truth (the Counsellor) … will guide you into all truth” (verse 13).
But first Jesus explained another essential function of the Holy Spirit (verses 8-11). “When he comes, he will convict the world” (NIV translation) or “convince the world” (RSV translation) or “prove the world wrong” (NRSV translation) in regard to three matters:
- guilt in regard to sin;
- righteousness; and
Guilt in regard to sin. The Counsellor would expose where lies the root of all sin: in the desire of humankind to live self-centred and self-indulgent lives independent of our Creator God and in denial of any allegiance to Jesus.
Righteousness. The Counsellor would show the righteousness of the Christ in that all Jesus said and did was without sin and that he spoke only truth, including in stating that he was going to be with the Father, for only then would the Counsellor be sent to guide Jesus’ disciples into all truth.
Judgement. The Counsellor would confirm beyond doubt the inevitability of judgement because, as a consequence of the impending death then resurrection of Jesus, the prince of this world (Satan) already stands condemned.
Yes, Jesus spoke those words almost 2000 years ago, but they are as true today and that means there are implications for us who follow him now. Our eyes have been opened to see the rebellion of the human heart against the authority of its Creator. To the extent that our limited understanding permits, we recognise the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We expect and we actually hope for judgement though this does not prevent us from wondering why the prince of this world continues to have influence over humankind.
We must persevere and we must be patient. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise” (to return) (2 Peter 3: 9). “With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3: 8). It is for us to stand firm in our faith through challenging times, enabled by the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit.