In 15:1-17 Jesus taught the disciples about relationships within the community of believers and instructed them it would be characterized by love. In 15:18-16:4 He taught about the relationship between the community of believers and the world, saying that it would be characterized by hate. Here he returns to giving practical instruction about the coming era that includes more specific information about the working of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 5 raises the question in the mind of the casual reader of whether or not Jesus is mistaken in saying that they have not asked Him where He was going before, for Peter had asked more or less directly, and Thomas had also done so by implication. It would seem that Jesus was not considering these instances because they were mouthed without understanding of what they were asking, for they had no clue that His journey would be a spiritual one. He explains to them that He must go away before the Holy Spirit can come to them. This is not because they cannot be there at the same time, but because He must pay the penalty for their sins on the cross before they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, for this is the eternal purpose of God and His primary mission on this earth. Put another way, Jesus came to the earth to go to the cross; only then does the Counselor come to the redeemed.
In chapter 14, Jesus presented the Counselor as the defense attorney for the disciples. Here He continues the legal analogy with the Counselor being portrayed as the prosecuting attorney against the world. He portrays this in three ways: First, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of its unbelief. Second, the Spirit will convict the world concerning the righteousness of Jesus. Third, the Spirit will convict the world of its own guilt and coming judgment. Just as the “Prince of this World” is defeated and destroyed by Jesus’ death and resurrection, so the world will be convicted in the coming judgment because light has come but they preferred darkness.
In verses 12-15, Jesus continues to teach the disciples about the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding them in the future, here discussing three more works. First, the Spirit will guide them “into all truth.” In the coming apostolic community, truth would not be determined by mere human logic or recollection, but guided by the Holy Spirit. Consider this: God has sent His Son to the earth to teach and testify to the truth. Then the Son must die on the cross for our sins. Will God trust the telling of this story and the teaching of the truth to the faulty memories of men? No, He will provide the Holy Spirit to ensure that the story of Jesus’ life and recitation of His teachings are secure and accurate. Second, the Spirit will pass on “only what he hears” to the disciples (apostles). Only what comes directly from God will be given to them as the truth. Third, the Spirit will continue the work of glorifying Father and Son by revealing Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This provides a unity of purpose between Father, Son and Spirit with a strong link to God’s original purpose of sending His Son to the earth, a linkage that continues into the eternal future and coincides with our purpose for being born and redeemed as well.
Verse 16 is a transition into the next section which will be our subject for next time. Jesus will shortly be arrested and crucified and they will see Him no more. It is as though He is saying to them that they should take heart and have courage, for He will be back very shortly to confirm all that He is telling them, and of course this promise is borne out by history.