Thoughts on John 16:8-11

John 16:8‑11  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 11
The recorded discourses of our Lord immediately preceding His Passion are in point of length in marked contrast with the sayings of the risen Savior. The latter are extremely brief, as we know, and largely of what I may perhaps call an official character, whether mandatory, as “Go and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:1919Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: (Matthew 28:19)), or declaratory, as “Whosesoever's sins ye remit, they are remitted” (John 20:2323Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:23)). Once or twice, a gentle rebuke was conveyed, as to Thomas, and to the travelers to Emmaus. But we have no details of what the Lord said on these occasions. It is true we are told how He expounded unto the two disciples, in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. But we have not the exposition (how we should prize it!), though we do read that their hearts burned within them while He opened unto them say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye have become dull of hearing. For, when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye again have need that one teach you the elements of the beginning of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:11-1411Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. 12For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11‑14)).
We are not to suppose that the study of this subject, or of any other set before us in the scriptures, would be devoid of profit for us or in any way reserved or interdicted. On the contrary “all scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished to every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, 1716All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16‑17)). There is a difference however between such an one and a “babe.” The teacher if wise will follow the way of God's Spirit in imparting or communicating. The faithful and wise servant will give the household meat in due season. Angels are at home in glory, they belong to it, but man by reason of sin is shut out, and comes short of God's glory and must, in his guilty condition be kept at a distance for his own safety—as see Gen. 3:2424So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24), Ex. 19:21-2521And the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish. 22And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them. 23And Moses said unto the Lord, The people cannot come up to mount Sinai: for thou chargedst us, saying, Set bounds about the mount, and sanctify it. 24And the Lord said unto him, Away, get thee down, and thou shalt come up, thou, and Aaron with thee: but let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them. 25So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them. (Exodus 19:21‑25) etc. All that was shut in and covered by the mercy seat witnessed to God's goodness and His abundant resources for His people's need, but alas! these had been met by fresh rebellion on man's part.
The cherubim of glory were represented, in the sanctuary, as looking intently into the ark as though they would learn what that could be in the ark which made it possible for God to go on in grace with such a rebellious people. In the temple, which Solomon builded, the cherubim are represented in quite a different position. In the tabernacle, their attitude spoke of reverent meditation and inspection— “and the cherubim shall stretch forth [their] wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces [shall look] one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be” (Ex. 25:2020And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be. (Exodus 25:20)). The governmental ways of God with His people were known to angels; indeed we see them often used in God's government of Israel. Again and again, we read of the angel of Jehovah, making his appearance at critical moments in their history. Angels knew well that Israel had broken the law before even its reception, that they had despised the manna and revolted against the priesthood; yet were these memorials in the ark, and although the people were as bad as ever, God went on with them in patient grace. The glories of Christ were thus represented, but surely the yearly sprinkling of the blood upon and before the mercy seat, pointed beforehand to the sufferings which Christ should endure, and by which alone the infinite resources of grace, now revealed in Jesus Christ, could be realized by man for blessing. Are not these some of the things which “angels desire to look into” (1 Peter 1:1212Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12))?
But the cherubim in Solomon's temple were so placed as to suggest a distinctly different thought. “And the wings of the cherubim [were] twenty cubits long, one wing five cubits reaching to the wall of the house; and the other wing five cubits reaching to the wing of the other cherub. And [one] wing of the other cherub five cubits reaching to the wall of the house; and the other wing five cubits joining to the wing of the other cherub. The wings of these cherubim spread themselves forth twenty cubits” (thus exactly filling up the breadth of the inner sanctuary); “and they stood on their feet, and their faces were toward the house” (2 Chron. 3:11-1311And the wings of the cherubims were twenty cubits long: one wing of the one cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was likewise five cubits, reaching to the wing of the other cherub. 12And one wing of the other cherub was five cubits, reaching to the wall of the house: and the other wing was five cubits also, joining to the wing of the other cherub. 13The wings of these cherubims spread themselves forth twenty cubits: and they stood on their feet, and their faces were inward. (2 Chronicles 3:11‑13) margin). They are here represented, not as looking into the ark with the judicial action proper to them in suspense, but, from their place in the inner sanctuary looking forth upon the priests in their service before the vail, then upon the outer court worshippers, and finally, looking on with perfect complacency to a world purified by judgment and ultimately brought into complete subjection to the God and Father. This will be the millennial age under the reign of Christ the Son of David. Even then man will not have right of access within the inner sanctuary as now.
In that order of worship which God established upon earth there was then this remarkable witness to fullness of grace—God in Christ anticipating, and meeting in righteousness, man's sin against every successive revelation which pointed to Christ, providing for him in his poverty, and giving light upon his path. But with it all the “way into the holiest was not made manifest.”
The inspired writer of this Epistle is seeking to bring the saints to a deeper realization of what the work of Christ had secured for them, and in which was everything to inspire confidence. They had to do with God Himself as revealed in His Son, not with angels however exalted. The high priest of old went but once a year into the holiest. Our great High Priest has gone in—into heaven itself—in all the value of His own finished work, and has not yet come out, as He will, in the day when His earthly people shall be blessed in the land from which they are now outcasts. In the meantime we are exhorted to approach boldly “the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace for seasonable help.”
(To be continued)