"The Work of the Holy Spirit"
John 16:1-33 - Verse-by-Verse Bible Study

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John 16:1-33: The Work of the Holy Spirit

In this study, the work of the Holy Spirit, found in John 16, Jesus continues to prepare His disciples for what lies ahead. He warns them of the tremendous battles they will face, and then reassures them, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, He will always be with them.

Verse 1: "I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away."

This verse begins with "I have said all the things" which indicates there is no break between this chapter, chapter 16, and chapter 15, (our previous study).

Concerning the phrase "falling away," some translations, use the word, "stumble." In the New Testament, it always means, "to cause one to fall into sin, or apostasy."

In our previous study, Jesus warned the disciples, and followers, to expect persecution from the world.

Here, He told them the reason for His warning, was to keep them from falling away under the pressures and persecution of the religious community, that was sure to come.

Verse 2: "They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God."

Jesus had previously warned the disciples of the persecution they would suffer, it was for the most part, a reference to the  persecution they would receive while in His presence; now He tells them the persecution will continue, even after He is gone.

To be put out of the synagogue was a dreaded penalty. It meant a loss of social acceptability, employment, and all access to the religious life they loved. The excommunicated person was considered to be worse than a pagan, an object of total rejection and hatred.

Jesus warned them that the time was coming when the rejection  would become so entrenched and powerful, that whoever would kill one of them would think they were  pleasing God.

According to history, the early Jews did not actually participate in the death of Christians. They mislead the Romans by claiming the Christians were not actually Jews. This left the Christians with no legal exemption from the requirement of worshiping the emperor.

They trick the Romans into crucifying Jesus, by telling them Jesus claimed to be a king; which the Roman Empire would not allow.

Verse 3: "And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me."

Even today, there seems to be an uncompromising animosity against Christians from the ones who do not know God.

Verse 4: "But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. "I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. "

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Verse 5: "But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?"

The disciples were beginning to grasp the meaning of Jesus' words. They were overwhelmed with the effect His departure would have on them. Instead of rejoicing with Jesus that He would soon rejoin the Father, and live in eternal glory, they were thinking of their personal loneliness and suffering.

Verse 6: "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart."

He knew how difficult it was for them to grasp the significance of the upcoming events. They did not yet realize that the work of the Holy Spirit would soon transform their lives.

Verse 7: "Nevertheless, 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."

It was to the advantage of the disciples, and to all who would follow, for Him to "go away," (back to Heaven, and the Father). Then, He would send the "Holy Spirit, the Helper, Comforter, the One called along side," to help.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus would not be confined in one body, but would reside in each and every Believer. This would allow Him to minister anywhere in the world, simultaneously.

There are many things about the Christian life that differs from other religions, but the distinguishing difference is that no other religion has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

With the Spirit of God living within, the Christian becomes the Temple of God. This is the temple, "Not made with hands,  (2 Cor 5:1).  

Verses 8-11: "And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;

Convicting the world of sin, righteousness and judgment is the work or the Holy Spirit. He will work through the Followers of Jesus to witness, teach, and preach His Word.

Sin, Righteousness, and Judgment, can be summarized
through the lives of Adam, Christ, Satan:


 Concerning sin, it is Adam - who committed the first sin and caused all of humanity to be separated from God.

Verse 10: concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;

Christ is the Righteousness of God. When someone accepts Christ as their Savior, God then sees that person as Righteous.

Verse 11: concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Judgment was introduced for, and because of, Satan. If not for him, there would be no judgment.

Even now, Satan stands judged and condemned. All who follow him will receive the same judgment, and destiny.

Verse 12: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now."

There were things the disciples simply could not understand, until later, when the Spirit was given. They had many things to learn, and, at that time, the Holy Spirit would guide them.

Traditions and laws had to be unlearned, including the cessation of sacrifices, elimination of circumcision, and the office of the High Priest. They had previously built their faith around these offices and laws.

It would have been virtually impossible for them to understand these changes at that time; that would be the work of  the Holy Spirit.

Verse 13: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come."


Earlier Jesus promised the disciples that the Spirit would remind them of His teachings, and here, that the Spirit would guide them into further truth. It is generally taught that both of these promises were fulfilled in the Apostle's writings of the New Testament.

It is important to remember that Jesus, speaking to the disciples, promised to, "remind them" of His teachings, and that the Spirit would "guide them" into further truth, which He did.

Some have made the mistake of thinking this scripture was for all Believers. This has led to new, 'so called' scripture being written, even by Followers in our day. This is incorrect! The Bible has been written and is complete, (finished). Scripture cannot be added to or taken from. (Rev 22:18-19)

The Holy Spirit works in all areas of the Christian's life.  The work of the Holy Spirit, is to grant Believers the proper and correct understanding of the Scriptures, as written.

"He will not speak on His own:"
The Holy Spirit is not independent of the Father and the Son, He is a third part of the, "Trinity."

His place is to speak only what He hears. He draws from, and conveys in the authority of Christ. He glorifies Christ in all that He does. He never exalts Himself, but continually glorifies Christ, who glorifies the Father.

Verse 14-15: "He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.


Through the Spirit, the Believers relationship with Jesus can be the same, and no less intimate than the disciples in the days before the cross. (Greg S. Keener, "Bible Background Commentary")

Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

Verse 16: "A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me."

Here, the first, "little while" speaks of the remaining hours before the Crucifixion, and the second "little while," of the resurrection, three days later.

Verse 17-18: "So some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I am going to the Father'? 18So they were saying, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We do not know what he is talking about."

Later, the disciples were able to grasp and understand this saying, but at the time, it was beyond their spiritual comprehension.

In verses 19 through 22, Jesus gives a more complete explanation:

Verse 19-22: "Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, 'A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me'? 20Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. "21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world." "22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."

Jesus knows the heart of man, so He knew they wanted to ask the meaning, and voluntarily began to explain.

The word, mourn, "threno" refers to grief at death. Jesus was clearly speaking of His crucifixion.

Their weeping and Lamenting would be their extreme grief at Jesus' death. Their grief would last a little while, but upon His resurrection would be turned to joy.

He compares the disciple's sorrow that turns to joy, to that of a woman having pain before birth, who, after the baby is born, quickly forgets the pain, because of her joy in the new baby.

Verse 23-23: "In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."

There is no mention of Jesus name, or of praying in the name of Jesus, in the "Lord's Prayer". (Matt 6:9-13)

To ask in Jesus name was something new to the disciples. Up to this point, the Holy Spirit had not yet been given. The disciples had not dwelt in Hm, and He had not dwelt in them. Through the Holy Spirit, a greater intimacy became possible between a Child of God, and the Father and the Son.

Mankind had been separated from God, and unable to approach Him since the sins of Adam and Eve. Upon Jesus death, the Temple veil of separation was rent from top to bottom, symbolizing the end of this terrible separation.

Now, through what Jesus did on the cross, man can directly approach God in prayer. The Holy Spirit, (the third entity in the "Trinity)," now indwells every Child of God, enabling them to speak directly to the Father,  and the Father to them.

Verses 25-27: "I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; "for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God."

Jesus again tells the disciples to "pray directly to God, in Jesus' name;" that God loves them and will accept their prayers, because they love and believe in Jesus.

The Christian can approach God, in the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit, and offer all manner of prayer, requests and petitions, or simply to bask in the joy of, "worshiping Him.

Verse 28: "I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father."


This is possibly the clearest and most direct statement Jesus had ever made, concerning His deity, and future plans after leaving earth.

Verse 29-30: "His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God."

After Jesus made this very concise statement, concerning His mission on earth and return to heaven, the disciples finally began to understand, Jesus' true mission.

Verse 31-33: "Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? 32Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me." "33I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

Jesus statement, "you believe at last" could have actually been in the form of a question. Their faith will be tested tremendously in the next few days.

Is it not a miracle that Jesus could actually accomplish His mission on earth surrounded by those who seem to know so little? Yet, even more amazing, was the dramatic change that came over these disciples afterwards, especially on the Day of Pentecost.

These few men, who seemed to know so little, through the work of the Holy Spirit, took the message of the cross to the entire world. This can only point to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

This concludes our study of, "The Work of the Holy Spirit."


Our Next Study Is:

"The Great Intercessory Prayer"

Jesus prays for Himself, Prays for His Disciples and then Prays for all Believers.


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The Work of the Holy Spirit

Samuel L. Mills

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