Christ having spoken of the great opposition which his gospel was likely to meet with in the world, and the hardships that would be put upon the preachers of it, lest any should fear that they and it would be run down by that violent torrent, he here intimates to all those that were well-wishers to his cause and interest what effectual provision was made for supporting it, both by the principal testimony of the Spirit (John 15:26), and the subordinate testimony of the apostles (John 15:27), and testimonies are the proper supports of truth.
I. It is here promised that the blessed Spirit shall maintain the cause of Christ in the world, notwithstanding the opposition it should meet with. Christ, when he was reviled, committed his injured cause to his Father, and did not lose by his silence, for the Comforter came, pleaded it powerfully, and carried it triumphantly. “When the Comforter or Advocate is come, who proceedeth from the Father, and whom I will send to supply the want of my bodily presence, he shall testify of me against those that hate me without cause.” We have more in John 15:26 concerning the Holy Ghost than in any one verse besides in the Bible; and, being baptized into his name, we are concerned to acquaint ourselves with him as far as he is revealed.
1. Here is an account of him in his essence, or subsistence rather. He is the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father. Here, (1.) He is spoken of as a distinct person; not a quality or property, but a person under the proper name of a Spirit, and proper title of the Spirit of truth, a title fitly given him where he is brought in testifying. (2.) As a divine person, that proceedeth from the Father, by out-goings that were of old, from everlasting. The spirit or breath of man, called the breath of life, proceeds from the man, and by it modified he delivers his mind, by it invigorated he sometimes exerts his strength to blow out what he would extinguish, and blow up what he would excite. Thus the blessed Spirit is the emanation of divine light, and the energy of divine power. The rays of the sun, by which it dispenses and diffuses its light, heat, and influence, proceed from the sun, and yet are one with it. The Nicene Creed says, The Spirit proceedeth from the Father and the Son, for he is called the Spirit of the Son, Gal. 4:6. And the Son is here said to send him. The Greek church chose rather to say, from the Father by the Son.
2. In his mission. (1.) He will come in a more plentiful effusion of his gifts, graces, and powers, than had ever yet been. Christ had been long the ho erchomenos—he that should come; now the blessed Spirit is so. (2.) I will send him to you from the Father. He had said (John 14:16), I will pray the Father, and he shall send you the Comforter, which bespeaks the Spirit to be the fruit of the intercession Christ makes within the veil: here he says, I will send him, which bespeaks him to be the fruit of his dominion within the veil. The Spirit was sent, [1.] By Christ as Mediator, now ascended on high to give gifts unto men, and all power being given to him. [2.] From the Father: “Not only from heaven, my Father’s house” (the Spirit was given in a sound from heaven, Acts 2:2), “but according to my Father’s will and appointment, and with his concurring power and authority.” [3.] To the apostles to instruct them in their preaching, enable them for working, and carry them through their sufferings. He was given to them and their successors, both in Christianity and in the ministry; to them and their seed, and their seed’s seed, according to that promise, Isa. 59:21.
3. In his office and operations, which are two:—(1.) One implied in the title given to him; he is the Comforter, or Advocate. An advocate for Christ, to maintain his cause against the world’s infidelity, a comforter to the saints against the world’s hatred. (2.) Another expressed: He shall testify of me. He is not only an advocate, but a witness for Jesus Christ; he is one of the three that bear record in heaven, and the first of the three that bear witness on earth. 1 John 5:7, 8. He instructed the apostles, and enabled them to work miracles; he indited the scriptures, which are the standing witnesses that testify of Christ, John 5:39. The power of the ministry is derived from the Spirit, for he qualifies ministers; and the power of Christianity too, for he sanctifies Christians, and in both testifies of Christ.
II. It is here promised that the apostles also, by the Spirit’s assistance, should have the honour of being Christ’s witnesses (John 15:27): And you also shall bear witness of me, being competent witnesses, for you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry. Observe here,
1. That the apostles were appointed to be witnesses for Christ in the world. When he had said, The Spirit shall testify, he adds, And you also shall bear witness. Note, The Spirit’s working is not to supersede, but to engage and encourage ours. Though the Spirit testify, ministers also must bear their testimony, and people attend to it; for the Spirit of grace witnesses and works by the means of grace. The apostles were the first witnesses that were called in the famous trial between Christ and the prince of this world, which issued in the ejectment of the intruder. This intimates, (1.) The work cut out for them; they were to attest the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, concerning Christ, for the recovering of his just right, and the maintaining of his crown and dignity. Though Christ’s disciples fled when they should have been witnesses for him upon his trial before the high priest and Pilate, yet after the Spirit was poured out upon them they appeared courageous in vindication of the cause of Christ against the accusations it was loaded with. The truth of the Christian religion was to be proved very much by the evidence of matter of fact, especially Christ’s resurrection, of which the apostles were in a particular manner chosen witnesses (Acts 10:41), and they bore their testimony accordingly, Acts 3:15; 5:32. Christ’s ministers are his witnesses. (2.) The honour put upon them hereby—that they should be workers together with God. “The Spirit shall testify of me, and you also, under the conduct of the Spirit, and in concurrence with the Spirit (who will preserve you from mistaking in that which you relate on your own knowledge, and will inform you of that which you cannot know but by revelation), shall bear witness.” This might encourage them against the hatred and contempt of the world, that Christ had honoured them, and would own them.
2. That they were qualified to be so: You have been with me from the beginning. They not only heard his public sermons, but had constant private converse with him. He went about doing good, and, while others saw the wonderful and merciful works that he did in their own town and country only, those that went about with him were witnesses of them all. They had likewise opportunity of observing the unspotted purity of his conversation, and could witness for him that they never saw in him, nor heard from him, any thing that had the least tincture of human frailty. Note. (1.) We have great reason to receive the record which the apostles gave of Christ, for they did not speak by hearsay, but what they had the greatest assurance of imaginable, 2 Pet. 1:16; 1 John 1:1, 3. (2.) Those are best able to bear witness for Christ that have themselves been with him, by faith, hope, and love, and by living a life of communion with God in him. Ministers must first learn Christ, and then preach him. Those speak best of the things of God that speak experimentally. It is particularly a great advantage to have been acquainted with Christ from the beginning, to understand all things from the very first, Luke 1:3. To have been with him from the beginning of our days. An early acquaintance and constant converse with the gospel of Christ will make a man like a good householder.