by Mike Ratliff
1 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. John 16:1 (NASB)
In John 15 our Lord spoke of “things” in order that believers “not be caused to stumble,” He was referring to John 15:18-25, which is the fact that those who are truly in Christ will be hated by the world just as our Lord was. Our Lord made it an imperative that we understand that this is true, but also that we do not have to contend with this alone. In John 15:26-27, the promise of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, is given again. Those who have the Holy Spirit are genuine believers and they bear witness about Christ because that is what the Holy Spirit does.
1 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. John 16:1-11 (NASB)
In v1 the words, “you may be kept from stumbling” translate μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε. The adverb μὴ or mē is “a primary particle of qualified negation.” For instance, it could have rendered it “may not.” The verb σκανδαλισθῆτε is the Aorist Tense, Subjunctive Mood, Active Voice form of σκανδαλίζω or skandalizō, “to offend, shock, excite feeling of repugnance.” It should be obvious that we get our English word “scandalize” from this word. This verb tense refers to simple, undefined action rather than repetitive action. The active voice is referring to action done by the subject, which would be those to whom our Lord was speaking. Now, what is our Lord talking about here? Some translations like the ESV render this as saying “falling away.” The KJV simply says “not be offended.” When we are persecuted for our faithfulness or if those with whom we stand are there will be the temptation for us to stumble in either fear or offense or some other motivation that our enemy will attempt to inflict upon us. Our Lord is saying He is speaking these words to us so that this will not happen.
Notice that He is not saying that what He is doing is going to stop evil people from doing these things. No, we are to remember that when persecution comes, we are to remember that we were warned that it would happen. We are not being left alone to attempt to withstand this alone. Look what happened to Peter on the night of our Lord’s trial when he tried to do that. He denied Him three times. However, on the day of Pentecost and thereafter, he was as bold and stood firm. What was the difference? The Encourager had come. We have Him as well. Timidity is not of God. Cowardice is not of God. Boldness in the power of the Holy Spirit is of God and that is our calling.
12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:12-15 (NASB)
What is central for us in this passage is found in v13 where we are promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all the truth. What does this mean? This points to the supernatural revelation of all the truth by which has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. This is why our Lord came to Jews first. He came to reveal the Father to them. He came to show them the truth about Himself. This is the subject of the inspired New Testament writings. Those of us who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit and He guides us into these truths. That is why we know them and do not go off into strange doctrines that talk about Jesus not being deity or that there is no Trinity, et cetera.
Our Lord gave us the only defining way to know if a person is truly a genuine Christian and especially a genuine Christian leader.
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB)
As we just studied, the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. Those who are disingenuous do not have the Holy Spirit so no matter how religious they are or how smart they are or how good they are at mimicking other Christians, they will produce worldly fruit instead of Kingdom fruit. Their fruit does not edify the Church. It does the opposite. Genuine prophets of God produce good fruit that God uses to build up the Church and feed His people. Big churches and large ministries and best selling books are not Kingdom fruit. Kingdom fruit would be leading God’s people into godliness and lives of repentance by preaching of the Word of God and obeying our Lord’s commandments. Bad fruit would always be associated with being friends with the world. Good fruit would be the opposite.
Soli Deo Gloria!