The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father’s Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 14:15-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 24, 2011

15. If you love me keep my commandments.

Now begins the promise of the Holy Ghost the fifth and greatest motive of consolation. But first in this verse, He requires as a condition that they should prove the love they protested by keeping His commandments; for, as St. Gregory says, “love is proved by deeds.”

16. And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever.

The Greek παρακλητον (Paraclete) passive in form, means literally “one called to the side of another,” for the purpose of advising or aiding him. The word is not found in the LXX., nor in the N. T. except in St. John, but its use in Demosthenes (De Falsa Leg. p. 341), Philo (Leg. in Place. 968 B.) and early Christian writers (Barn. Ep. xx. ; 2 Clem. 6) is clear. “The sense of advocate, counsel, one who pleads, convinces, convicts, in a great controversy, who strengthens on the one hand and defends on the other, meeting formid able attacks, is alone adequate.” Westc. pp. 211, 212. It is disputed whether the Holy Ghost is here promised only to the Apostles, or, in them, to the whole teaching Church. In the first case, “for ever,” would mean during their lives; in the second, it would mean
till the end of the world, as long as the Church shall endure. This latter sense we
prefer, for (1) the words “for ever” favour this view; (2) though the Apostles needed a comforter, yet not they only, but their successors quite as much; (3) this spirit is promised to teach them all truth (John 16:13); why, except in order that they through themselves and their successors might teach the world? (4) we
know from the event that on the day of Pentecost the Holy Ghost came not to the Apostles alone (Acts 2:4). We hold then that the Holy Ghost is here promised to the Ecclesia docens, represented by the Apostles, to abide with her for ever.

In either interpretation it cannot be proved from this text that the Apostles were to be confirmed in grace after the descent of the Holy Ghost, for it is enough for the fulfilment of the promise here made that the Holy Ghost was to be, as far as in Him lay, an enduring Comforter, though the Apostles, on their part, might expel
and banish Him. This verse proves the personality of the Holy Ghost, for He is sent in the place of Christ (see also verse 26). It proves also His Divinity, for only a Divine Person would be thus compared to Christ, and spoken of as another Comforter. Moreover the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father is here
implied in the fact that the Father is said to send the Holy Ghost. For the sending of one Divine Person by another, implies the Eternal Procession of one from the
other with a relation to some term in time. Finally, the three Persons of the Trinity are shown to be distinct, for the Father will send the Holy Ghost at the request of the Son.

17. The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him: but you shall know him; because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you.

The Spirit of truth. The Holy Ghost is so called, not only because He is essential Truth, but also because He was to come to the Apostles as a teacher of truth (verse 26). In the following words the Apostles are told that the wicked world (Jn 1:10; 14:30; 17:9, 16) cannot receive the Holy Ghost, for as St. Paul says: “the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand: because it is spiritually examined” (1 Cor 2:14).

It seeth him not, nor knoweth him. Some take the meaning to be: seeth Him not with the eyes of the body, nor discerneth Him by spiritual vision; others, and with more probability, take both clauses as synonymous and in reference to spiritual vision. The sense is that be cause the wicked world will refuse to recognise the Holy Ghost, it will be incapable of receiving Him at His coming.
Want of vision shall be a hindrance to possession.

But you shall know him; because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you.
Reversing the order of thought, He now says that the presence of the Holy Ghost abiding in the Apostles shall bring them still  fuller knowledge. Such seems to be the sense of the verse according to the Vulgate reading. But in the latter part of the verse, instead of “shall know” and “shall abide,” we have in both instances the present tense in the Greek, and many authorities also read the present instead of “shall be.”  The clause would then run: “but you know him because he abides with you and is in you.”

18. I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.

As a sixth motive of con solation, He tells them that He will come again to them Himself. Already indeed he had spoken of His coming to them, and had put it forward as a motive of consolation (verse 3), but the coming there meant we take to be different from that now referred to, and hence a new motive of consolation is now put forward in the coming promised here.

I will come (ερχομαι) to you. There are various views as to what coming of Christ is here promised.

(1) Some hold that the reference is to the coming after His resurrection when we know He appeared to the Apostles but was unseen by the world. So St. Chrys., St. Thorn., Patriz., &c.

(2) Others hold that there is question of the coming at the Day of Judgment. As the years are measured before God, only “a little while” shall elapse till then, and it is only after the Day of Judgment that the promise of verse 20: “In that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” shall be fully realized. So St. Aug., Maid., &c.

(3) Others understand of the coming of Christ in and with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost. If the consubstantiality and circumincession of the three Divine Persons be borne in mind, the whole passage that follows as far as verse 24, will then be naturally explained. So St. Cyril, Beel., Bisp., &c. We prefer the last view, and hold that from 15-24, there is question of the coming of the Holy Ghost, first in reference to the Apostles (15-20), and then in reference to the faithful generally (21-24). In reference to the Apostles, the coming of the Holy Ghost is first considered in itself (15-17), and next, for their consolation, as implying and including the coming of Christ Himself (18-20).

Though this view may at first sight seem forced, we believe that if the connection
in the passage be followed closely, it must appear the most probable. For when St. Jude, alluding to the words of verse 19, asks, in verse 22, how Christ shall be seen by the Apostles, yet unseen by the world, Christ’s reply, in verse 23, goes to show that the vision is spiritual, and such as is explained by the fact, that He and His Father will come and make their abode in those that love Him.

19. Yet a little while: and the world seeth me no more. But you see me: because I live, and you shall live.

Yet a little while. This we understand of the few hours that remained till His death. After that, the world should see Him no longer. But, He adds, you shall see
Me (present for future); not, indeed, with the eyes of the body, but with those of the soul; because I live (the present being used, perhaps, of His Divine life, in virtue of which He was to resume the life of the body), and you shall live the life of grace, which will be rewarded by the vision of Me.

Thus he tells them that they shall live a spiritual life, a kind of participation in His own glorious life (Jn 6:57), and that for this reason they shall be privileged to see Him spiritually. That there is question of spiritual vision, is proved, we believe, from what follows; for they shall see according as He shall manifest Himself (verse 21); and this manifestation of Himself He explains in verse 23 of His abiding in them.

20. In that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.

In that time, after I have come to you at Pentecost (together with the Holy Ghost), you shall know clearly that I am in My Father, that I am God, and that you are in Me as its branches in the vine (see below, Jn 15:2), deriving all your
spiritual life from Me, and I in you by a special indwelling enjoyed only by the just. See above on Jn 7:39. If there be a comparison here between the mutual indwelling of the Father and Son on the one hand, and that of Christ and the just on the other, it is plain that the likeness is only imperfect and analogical. Yet such texts as this (see also Jn 6:58; 17:21, 23), even when we make all necessary allowance for the imperfection of the likeness, prove clearly how marvellously
intimate and sacred is the union that exists between Christ and the souls of the

21. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them: he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

He that hath (ο εχων) my commandments, and keepeth them, &c. Not only to the Apostles, but to all that love Him, Christ will manifest Himself, for in and with the Holy Ghost He and His Father will come and abide in them.

2 Responses to “Father’s Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 14:15-21”

  1. […] Father’s Nolan and Brown on the Gospel (John 14:15-21). […]

  2. […] Father’s Nolan and Brown on the Gospel (John 14:15-21). […]

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