The Words That Keeps Believers From Stumbling

by Mike Ratliff

1 Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε. John 16:1 (NA28)

1 “These things I have spoken to you that you not be caused to stumble.” John 16:1 ( translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In our post, The True Vine, we looked at John 15. When our Lord spoke of the “things” He spoke of 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 Ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε. 2 ἀποσυναγώγους ποιήσουσιν ὑμᾶς· * ἀλλʼ ἔρχεται ὥρα ἵνα πᾶς ὁ ἀποκτείνας ὑμᾶς δόξῃ λατρείαν προσφέρειν τῷ θεῷ. 3 καὶ ταῦτα ποιήσουσιν ὅτι οὐκ ἔγνωσαν τὸν πατέρα οὐδὲ ἐμέ. 4 ἀλλὰ ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἵνα ὅταν ἔλθῃ ἡ ὥρα αὐτῶν μνημονεύητε αὐτῶν ὅτι ἐγὼ εἶπον ὑμῖν. Ταῦτα δὲ ὑμῖν ἐξ ἀρχῆς οὐκ εἶπον, ὅτι μεθʼ ὑμῶν ἤμην. 5 νῦν δὲ ὑπάγω πρὸς τὸν πέμψαντά με, καὶ οὐδεὶς ἐξ ὑμῶν ἐρωτᾷ με· ποῦ ὑπάγεις; 6 ἀλλʼ ὅτι ταῦτα λελάληκα ὑμῖν ἡ λύπη πεπλήρωκεν ὑμῶν τὴν καρδίαν. 7 ἀλλʼ ἐγὼ τὴν ἀλήθειαν λέγω ὑμῖν, συμφέρει ὑμῖν ἵνα ἐγὼ ἀπέλθω. ἐὰν γὰρ μὴ ἀπέλθω, ὁ παράκλητος οὐκ ἐλεύσεται πρὸς ὑμᾶς· ἐὰν δὲ πορευθῶ, πέμψω αὐτὸν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. 8 καὶ ἐλθὼν ἐκεῖνος ἐλέγξει τὸν κόσμον περὶ ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ δικαιοσύνης καὶ περὶ κρίσεως· 9 περὶ ἁμαρτίας μέν, ὅτι οὐ πιστεύουσιν εἰς ἐμέ· 10 περὶ δικαιοσύνης δέ, ὅτι πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ὑπάγω καὶ οὐκέτι θεωρεῖτέ με· 11 περὶ δὲ κρίσεως, ὅτι ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου κέκριται. John 16:1-11 (NA28)

1 “These things I have spoken to you that you not be caused to stumble. 2 They will put you away from the synagogues but an hour is coming that those killing you believe they are offering service to God. 3 And these things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you that when their hour comes you might remember them that I told you. But I did not say these things to you from the beginning because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to the one who sent Me and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart, 7 but I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go away for if I do not go away, the Encourager will not come to you. But if go, I will send Him to you 8 and having come, He will convict the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness and concerning judgment. 9 Concerning sin because they do not believe in Me. 10 Concerning righteousness because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me. 11 Concerning judgment because the ruler of this world has been judged.” John 16:1-11 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In v1 the words, “you not be caused to stumble” translate μὴ σκανδαλισθῆτε. The adverb μὴ (mē) is “a primary particle of qualified negation.” For instance, I could have rendered it “may not.” The verb σκανδαλισθῆτε is the Aorist Tense, Subjunctive Mood, Active Voice form of σκανδαλίζω (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 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 Ἔτι πολλὰ ἔχω ὑμῖν λέγειν, ἀλλʼ οὐ δύνασθε βαστάζειν ἄρτι· 13 ὅταν δὲ ἔλθῃ ἐκεῖνος, τὸ πνεῦμα τῆς ἀληθείας, ὁδηγήσει ὑμᾶς ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ πάσῃ· οὐ γὰρ λαλήσει ἀφʼ ἑαυτοῦ, ἀλλʼ ὅσα ἀκούσει λαλήσει καὶ τὰ ἐρχόμενα ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν. 14 ἐκεῖνος ἐμὲ δοξάσει, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήμψεται καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν. 15 πάντα ὅσα ἔχει ὁ πατὴρ ἐμά ἐστιν· διὰ τοῦτο εἶπον ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λαμβάνει καὶ ἀναγγελεῖ ὑμῖν. John 16:12-15 (NA28)

12 “Yet many things I to tell you, but you are not able to bear them now, 13 but when the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you in every truth for He will not speak from Himself, but He will speak to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glory Me because He will take what is mine and will announce it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are mine, therefore, I said that He will take what is mine and will declare it to you.” John 16:12-15 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

What is central for us in this passage is found in v13 where we are promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us in every truth. What does this mean? This points to the supernatural revelation of all truth through who Jesus Christ really is. 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 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!

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