John 14:13 – “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Welcome back, readers! I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas holiday.
In last week’s post we examined the statement of Jesus that his followers would perform ‘greater works’ then he did. As we studied this verse, we concluded that he was referring to expanding the kingdom of heaven by bringing lost souls to Christ.
That particular promise was given to the apostles to help comfort them because their hearts were heavy with thoughts of losing the bodily presence of Jesus.
Here in verse 13, Jesus provides yet another statement/guarantee of victory and comfort to the eleven – whatever help they previously obtained by the fleshly presence of Jesus on earth, they will now obtain by their prayers.
Specifically, Jesus says that he will do whatever we ask in his name. How are we to understand this statement? Is it a ‘blank check’ that we can use for the things of this world, like a new car, a luxury boat or a mansion?
I suspect that over the years there have been Christians and Christian leaders who interpreted the verse in this manner. While it is true that Jesus wants his children to be blessed, he has not guaranteed any of us unlimited access to the things of this world for our own pleasure.
As always, we must interpret the statement of Jesus in the context of the larger passage, which again, is speaking of expanding the kingdom of heaven and bringing lost sinners to repentance/salvation. Let’s take a closer look at the promise.
First of all, we can’t help but notice that the promise contains a qualification: we must pray in Christ’s name. In other words, we must pray in obedience to God’s commands, for things in accordance with his will and with the intent to glorify him before men. This was the exact way that Jesus lived his life, and we can be sure that all of his prayers were answered!
When we pray in the name of Jesus, it isn’t simply ending the prayer with the words, ‘in Jesus’ name, amen’.
It means that we pray with the understanding/acknowledgement that with his own blood Jesus has purchased our right (privilege is probably a better word) to approach the throne of God with our requests. This idea is supported by the writer of Hebrews:
Hebrews 4:14, 16 – Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Without Jesus as our high priest, making atonement for our sin, we would instantly die if we ever came into the presence of God. So praying in his name is a way of humbling ourselves while honoring/acknowledging him for reconnecting us with the Father.
Secondly, praying in the name of Jesus implies that we pray in his strength, with his authority and by the assistance of Holy Spirit. Just before Jesus sends his disciples out to spread the gospel message, he assures them that all power in heaven and earth has been given to him:
Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
This means that whatever we ask for on earth, Jesus obtains for us in heaven. Notice that Jesus does not say ‘the Father will do’ what we ask, but that he himself, by his own power and authority, through his Spirit, will honor/answer the requests we make of him.
Finally, praying in Jesus’ name is actually asking that our prayers NOT be answered unless they are in accordance with the divine will. Jesus gives us a good example of this when he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane:
Matthew 26:39 – And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will.
Jesus is praying/asking that he be spared from having the sin of the world heaped upon him. But he is also praying for his Father’s will to be done. And as we know, he accepted the burden of that sin. As we pray in Jesus’ name, we are doing the same thing – asking that our petitions be rejected if they are not in accordance with God’s will.
We can conclude that praying in the name of Jesus gives all his followers (the disciples, you and I, and the church collectively) the assurance that when we pray, he hears us and provides whatever is in accordance with his will especially regarding the salvation of people.
One additional comment should be made here. While it is not specifically emphasized in this text, faith also plays a significant role in answered prayer (Matthew 21:21). We won’t study this specifically because it is not in the text, but readers are invited to look at past posts on the gospel of Matthew, chapters 17 and 21.
John 14:14 – “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Jesus repeats the promise once again, to emphasize his point. If Jesus says something once, we can rely on it; if he repeats himself we had better take note of the truth of his statement!
Essentially, anything that is needed by individual believers or the church collectively in the fight to expand the kingdom of heaven and bring the lost to Christ will be granted by Jesus.
John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
There can be no doubt that the disciples love Jesus and they are greatly troubled at the prospect of being without him in bodily form. I am sure they expressed this sorrow verbally, just as we would have.
Jesus responds to their words with some amazing wisdom. He says that love should be demonstrated by action, not by mere words alone, because mere profession is not proof of love.
Our love for Christ should be demonstrated by taking up our cross and following him, by loving one another, by denying our flesh and by obeying his commands. This is true evidence that we love him.
In fact, love and obedience go hand-in-hand. If we obey without love for God, then our service is nothing more than drudgery and slavery. On the other hand, if we claim to love without obeying, then we are merely pretending; our love is nothing more than empty lip service.
We recognize this to be true in our everyday lives. For example, if a person constantly states that they want to lose weight, but they never change their eating habits, or increase their level of activity, we would conclude that they don’t really want to lose weight. They like the idea of it, but they are not committed to making it happen.
Or, we might find a person who says they don’t care about money, but they hoard the money they have and sacrifice time with family in order to work/earn even more. Essentially in these cases the words that are spoken are meaningless because the actions of the person don’t back them up.
The old adage holds true: Actions speak louder than words.
So the best and surest evidence we can have of our love for our Lord Jesus is a humble, cheerful and persistent obedience to all that he commands us through his word and by his Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 5:8-10). This is confirmed by the statement of Jesus after he rose from the dead and appeared to the apostles:
John 21:16 – He [Jesus] said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me? He said unto him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love you. He said unto him, Feed my sheep.
Notice that in this passage Jesus again equates obedience to his commands (go into all the world and spread the gospel) with love for him.
This should give each one of us pause. What has God called us to do? Are we actively and purposefully involved in doing it to the best of our ability? Do we seek the council of Holy Spirit in how to accomplish the tasks set before us?
If obedience is the measure of our love for Christ, can we prove that we love him?
John 14:16 – “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,”
The promise of another Helper/Comforter is the greatest promise in the New Testament, just as the Messiah was the greatest promise under the Old Testament. The Helper – Holy Spirit – was given to aid every single New Testament believer in his/her walk of faith.
‘I will ask the Father’ – This reflects the intercessory role of Jesus in our lives. We know that he went back to the Father and that from that position he intercedes for us constantly (Romans 8:34). When Jesus declares that he will ‘ask the Father’ (pray), it does NOT – I repeat, it does NOT – indicate that Father God is unwilling to send the gift of the Spirit upon us, or that he must be convinced to do it contrary to his will.
Let me say it one more time: Jesus prays for the Father to give us the Spirit, but NOT because the Father is unwilling to do so. This situation merely reflects that the gift of the Spirit is a benefit obtained by the mediation of Christ; it was purchased by his blood and it is given through his intercession. It is God’s will for you to have this gift. If you ask for it in Jesus’ name, you can be certain of receiving it.
Luke 11:13 – If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
‘He will give you another helper’ – Ever since Jesus called the twelve to himself, he has been their counselor, friend, teacher and guide. He has comforted and upheld them in difficult times. But it was never the plan for him to remain on earth forever. If Jesus remained in bodily form on earth, it would be physically impossible for him to fulfill this role for every believer around the globe. Obviously, God already knew this, so he planned to send another helper to assist his followers.
This helper is none other than Holy Spirit, the most precious gift God has given us next to our salvation. The first point we want to make here is that Holy Spirit is a divine person, not a divine ‘quality’ or ‘power’. He is a member of the Godhead, equal to the Father and Son in every way.
Because he is a person, we can personally know him, just as we know Jesus. He lives within our hearts and seals us for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30, II Corinthians 1:22). He is here on earth to empower, assist, lead and guide every single Christian in their earthly walk. He comforts us, teaches us, gives us boldness and sustains us until we leave this planet. Because he is a Spirit, he is available to assist and dwell in every single believer around the globe.
And truthfully, unless God sent a divine agent into the world to help us, the message and work of salvation would have perished long ago because the work cannot be completed in our own strength.
In this we also see the unity (yet distinctness) in the Trinity: Father God commissioned and sent the Son, the Son made atonement for sin and continues in the role of intercession while the Spirit applies the work/message of salvation to the hearts and minds of mankind.
‘To be with you forever’ – The blessing of Holy Spirit is stable and permanent. He is our constant companion and guide. Whether we walk through temptation, victory, affliction or blessing he is right there offering us comfort and guidance until death releases us from this life.
John 14:17 – “…even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
‘The Spirit of truth’ – Why is Holy Spirit referred to as the Spirit of truth?
First of all, he is indeed a spirit, not flesh and blood like Jesus was during his incarnation. Holy Spirit will do his work in a spiritual way/manner working on men’s hearts, minds and spirits in an inward and invisible way.
Holy Spirit is the one who will enlighten the minds of believers with knowledge of the truth. The understanding of the Gentiles was darkened by their idolatries. The understanding of the Jews was darkened by their traditions. In both cases, Holy Spirit is present to reveal the truth and depth of the gospel to all those who trust in Christ.
In addition, Holy Spirit was the one who would keep the apostles from teaching erroneous doctrines regarding the gospel message. He would call the teachings of Jesus to their remembrance, and give them a clear understanding of what those doctrines meant and how they should be interpreted. Thus, the message the apostles communicated to others was always true, whether it was delivered by teaching, preaching or writing. This is one of the reasons we can have confidence in the written word of God (II Peter 1:21).
‘Whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him’ – The disciples (all believers) are members of the kingdom/family of God. As such, they can receive Holy Spirit into their hearts/lives, because, as we have already noted, the gift of Holy Spirit was purchased by the blood of Christ and it is given to us by his intercession.
On the other hand, ‘world’ refers to all those who are not Christians. They are members of the kingdom of darkness and Satan is their father. He is the father of lies:
John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
Unbelievers literally cannot receive Holy Spirit because the spirit of this world and the Spirit of God are contrary to one another.
1 Corinthians 2:12 – Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
Because they are members of the kingdom of this world, they can only understand and perceive the things of this world, which are known to them through the senses of the flesh (seeing, hearing, etc). They lack spiritual perception (seeing/hearing). Since spiritual things are foolishness to them, they cannot understand or receive them (I Corinthians 2:14) and the devil works hard to keep it that way. He wants to keep them blinded to the truth of the gospel.
The good news is that those who are willing to listen to the words of life (the gospel) can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, where they too can receive the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, just like you and I. In fact, it is through the influence/conviction of Holy Spirit that sinners turn to Christ for forgiveness.
We ‘know him for he dwells with you/in you’ – Holy Spirit dwells in the life of every believer; he is the seal of our redemption (Ephesians 1:13, 4:30). We value him and welcome him into our lives; we are involved in an intimate relationship with him, which will never end. He is a true gift that consoles, sustains and empowers us while we are absent from Christ our Redeemer.
John 14:18 – “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
At the beginning of his discourse with the eleven, Jesus referred to them as his children (John 13:33). In the natural realm, children who have lost their father are known as orphans. They lose all of the support a father normally gives – financial support, physical provision and protection, emotional support, guidance in growing up, etc. They lose the comfort and stability of knowing that their dad is always there to help and guide them through life. They are exposed to dangers such as injustice and fraud; many will look to mistreat and abuse them.
Spiritually speaking, the disciples were going to be orphans in a matter of hours and they were worried about it.
But Jesus reassures his followers that although they would be without him for a very short time, it was a temporary situation. He will come to them again on the day of Pentecost in the person of Holy Spirit (Acts chapter 1).
John 14:19 – “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”
Jesus tells the disciples that once he has disappeared from the view of the world, they would still see him.
This was true in a literal sense. Jesus never appeared to the Jewish nation as a whole after his resurrection. To them, the grave was the closing argument in the case for Christ. Because they saw him no more, they considered him dead.
However, his own followers saw him many times. Mary Magdalene saw him first (Mark 16:9), and subsequently he appeared to the disciples and others on various occasions before his ascension to heaven (Mark 16:14, John 20:25-28, etc).
More importantly, the statement of Jesus was also true in a spiritual sense. The next time the world will see Jesus is on the coming Day of Judgment at the end of this age. Until then, they know nothing of him because they are spiritually blind.
However, Christians of all times/ages will continue to ‘see’ Christ with their eyes of faith until the very day they die. Each of us can continue to experience his power, might, guidance, etc through the working of Holy Spirit.
Jesus now repeats a message he demonstrated earlier, at the time of the resurrection of Lazarus: Because he lives, we also will live.
Jesus is the first fruits of those who will rise from the dead. His own resurrection is proof/surety that we too will one day rise from the grave and ascend to heaven to spend eternity with the Father, just as Jesus did.
Romans 8:11 – But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also bring to life your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.
But his promise includes much more than just physical resurrection. It is an assurance of eternal life. The God-head (Trinity) is the source of all divine spiritual life. The true, divine life of Jesus was completely unaffected by the physical death he experienced. Death can kill the body, but not the spirit. In the same way, those who believe in Jesus will be spiritually unchanged by undergoing physical death. We will pass directly from physical death to the presence of God.
John 14:20 – “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
What does ‘that day’ refers to?
Some scholars believe Jesus speaks of the day of his resurrection. Certainly, some of the questions the disciples had were answered on that day, but there is no clear evidence to suggest that they fully understood the spiritual relationship between Father God and his Son, or the Son and themselves. The disciples remained essentially unchanged after the resurrection – they were weak, afraid and unsure of themselves (John 20:19).
Others feel ‘that day’ refers to the Day of Pentecost, the time when the disciples would receive the gift of Holy Spirit. After Holy Spirit came upon them they were transformed. They became bold, fearless and unstoppable.
Holy Spirit illuminated their minds (John 14:26), allowing them to fully understand the Old Testament scriptures which told of the death, resurrection and mission of the Messiah. The gospel doctrines which they had heard from Jesus became crystal clear to them; they were able to preach with boldness and thousands came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
The Spirit continued to move and work in their lives, assisting them in writing the entire New Testament, which will use today (II Peter 1:21).
It seems clear that the Spirit assisted the disciples in understanding/realizing two things:
First, they fully understood that Jesus is in the Father. In other words, Jesus and the Father are completely united (John 10:30). They are one in essence and one in purpose; they are in complete agreement with each other.
Second, the disciples understood that Christ has not forsaken them. He proved it by his resurrection, by appearing to them over a span of 40 days, by going to heaven to prepare and place for them and by giving them the gift of his indwelling Holy Spirit, who empowered them for successful ministry.
They knew beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus was present with them, cooperating with them and empowering them through his Spirit. They must have possessed the clearest conviction that Christ had not abandoned them, but that he was dwelling in them, just as they were dwelling in him.
Not long ago the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father, but soon (on that day) that would not be necessary. Holy Spirit would quicken their hearts and they would understand that they were in Christ, who was in the Father; therefore they were communing with (and seeing) Father God through Christ. Holy Spirit would bear witness with their own spirits that they were the children of God (Romans 8:16).
Let me offer you some encouragement:
As we noted in today’s post, Jesus promises to do anything we ask in his name. Some Christians have misinterpreted this promise to mean that they can ask for everything this world has to offer, and Jesus must give it to them. But that is not what Jesus meant.
While it is true that God is well known for generously blessing his children, he prefers gives us something far better than the temporary riches of this world, which tend to corrupt us.
Ephesians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
The blessings that are guaranteed to us are eternal/lasting and perfect. They draw us closer to God, rather than separating us from him. These blessings include true riches such as pardon, peace, adoption by God (and thus all the riches of his kingdom), joy, eternal life, gifts of the Spirit, treasure in heaven and much, much more.
Having said that, it is also true that in order to further the kingdom of God on earth Christians are going to need access to earthly money – and lots of it. So if you need earthly finances to accomplish the heavenly tasks God has assigned to you, I strongly encourage you to ask for them. I encourage you to seek Jesus first, before begging the public for money. You can be assured he will direct you in the best manner to receive what you need.
Let me offer you some relief:
You may have been taught that Holy Spirit no longer gives supernatural gifts to believers in this age. (What a frightening thought!) If so, let me give you some relief – despite what some denominations may teach, Holy Spirit is still very active in the lives of believers today!
Look around and you will see people operating in these gifts, using them to expand the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. I assure you, Holy Spirit wants to give you supernatural gifts as well. Why not ask him for one? Why not receive all the assistance God has provided for you in this life? Wouldn’t it be a relief to know that you can depend on Holy Spirit to assist you in spreading the gospel?
Let me offer you some strength:
Holy Spirit is the one who convicts the heart of a sinner who hears the message of the gospel. Without his work on the sinner’s inward heart/mind, they will remain in darkness never perceiving the freedom from sin they can have in Christ. His work is needed in the world now, more than ever.
But he can’t do his part until you and I open our mouths and share the gospel.
Sharing the gospel in a violent, mixed up world can seem like a daunting task. But let me offer you some strength – you are not alone! Holy Spirit is ready to work with you, giving you supernatural boldness and making you fearless just as he did for the twelve. He has never stopped partnering with believers since he came to earth on the Day of Pentecost. He is standing by right now, full of gifts and resources, ready to work with you.
Why not partner with Holy Spirit in the coming new year?