Jesus Says the Paraclete and the Disciples Will Bear Witness to Him (15:26-27)
From his own witness and that of Scripture Jesus now returns to the witness of the Paraclete and his disciples. The witness of the Paraclete and the disciples stands in marked contrast to the rejection by the world, confirming the fact that Jesus and those associated with him are not of this world. Referring to the Paraclete as the Spirit of truth (v. 26) provides yet another contrast with the world, which has rejected Jesus out of error.
Jesus says he will send the Paraclete from the Father (v. 26), thus affirming both that the Paraclete is associated in a primary way with the Father and that the Son is involved in his historical mission (14:26; 16:7). Then Jesus refers to the Paraclete as the one who goes out from the Father (v. 26). The meaning of this line has been the source of enormous controversy right down to today. Many Western Christians would say the going out is another way of referring to the historical mission of the Paraclete. The Eastern church, on the other hand, sees this as referring to the eternal relations within the Godhead: this procession of the Spirit is not into history; it is the coming forth of the Spirit from the Father from all eternity. The Son is God begotten, the Spirit is God proceeding, and the Father is the one source of both.
The Father as the one ultimate source of all is true to the thought of this Gospel and the rest of Scripture, but it is doubtful that this verse is dealing in its primary sense with the eternal relations between the Father and the Spirit. The word used for from (para) does not denote source in this sense. Indeed, the line in the Nicene Creed referring to the eternal relations is "I believe in the Holy Spirit . . . who proceeds from (ek) the Father." The Greek fathers who refer to the eternal procession use ek and even change para to ek when referring to verse 26 in this connection (Westcott 1908:2:213). Furthermore, the language in our verse (para) is used elsewhere in John to describe Jesus' coming forth from the Father on his mission within history, though with a different verb (16:27; 17:8). Thus, the going out probably also refers to the historical mission of the Spirit. Jesus repeats the thought in this way to emphasize that the Spirit is from the Father—that is, like Jesus himself, he is not of this world.
The Paraclete is going to testify about Jesus (v. 26). Because he is being sent to the disciples—whom I will send to you—it would seem his testimony is to the disciples, who in turn will testify before the world. Further details about the Paraclete's testimony will be given shortly (16:8-15), but first the testimony of the disciples themselves is introduced.
The disciples were chosen out of the world (v. 19) and are now said to be witnesses because they have been with Jesus from the beginning (v. 27), referring to the beginning of his ministry. This implies Jesus is speaking primarily to the eleven in these chapters. They have been along for the whole trip so they can tell the whole story (cf. Acts 1:21-22). Because the Gospel is not just an abstract message but an account of what God himself has done and said as he was incarnate, history matters enormously and the role of eyewitnesses is crucial. "The New Testament is . . . neither a collection of thoughtful essays nor an attempt to construct a system of ethics. It bears witness to a unique history, and it discovers the truth in the history. . . . The fourth Gospel persuades and entices the reader to venture a judgement upon the history" (Hoskyns and Davey 1947:181). The Gospel of John is itself a primary example of the witness referred to in verse 27. The eyewitness testimony is now available through the New Testament, which is foundational and is the criterion of all claims to bear witness to Christ.
These two verses, then, introduce the offense which the disciples are to wage in the face of the world's hatred and persecution, with the disciples' giving voice to the Paraclete's witness against the world (Brown 1970:698).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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