BELIEVERS NOT LEFT ORPHANS
by Bob Wheeler
As Jesus continued to reassure His disciples He tells them, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:18,19). He will not leave them “orphans.” Up until now they were almost little children to Him. They enjoyed a warm, affectionate relationship with Him; not as equals, but rather like children might have with their fathers. And now He was about to depart. Where would that leave them? He reassures them that even though He was about to be physically removed from them, He would not leave them orphaned.
How this will come about takes several forms. First He tells them that “I will come to you.” This almost certainly refers to His post-resurrection appearances to them. They would see Him, but the world would not. Luke tells us that “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). John will go on to relate three of these appearances (cf. John 21:14).
But to return to the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus mentions the significance of His resurrection: “Because I live, you will live also” (v. 19). The disciples at this point probably did not understand that what Jesus was saying was that He was about to be put to death, but would then rise from the dead. And what they certainly did not understand was what this would mean for them personally. What Jesus was about to accomplish, in effect, was the victory over death. We are fallen sinners. We live in a sin-cursed world. Eventually we must all die. But is there any hope for life after death? Or is death the end of it?
The Bible makes it clear that death is a result of sin. When our first parents sinned they alienated themselves from God, and death was the curse that God pronounced on them as a result. But what the death of Christ did was to make a sacrificial atonement for our sin, and the resurrection of Christ was the proof that God the Father had accepted the sacrifice. The curse was then removed and now He could live. And because of that we can live too, if we confess our sins, put our personal trust in Christ as our Savior, and receive the forgiveness of our sins. “Because I live, you will live also.”
Jesus then went on to draw out a further implication of His resurrection: “And in that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (v. 20). Here He uses the proposition “in” to describe three relationships: “in My Father,” “you in Me,” and “I in you”; and yet the relationships are not the same. But what the preposition “in” represents in all three cases is an intimate relationship of some sort.
First He says that “I am in My Father.” This, of course, takes us into the doctrine of the Trinity, a concept that boggles the human imagination. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different persons, but share one substance (John 10:30). Jesus was God incarnate (John 1:1-14; I John 1:1,2); and Jesus possessed the Holy Spirit beyond all measure (John 3:34,35). Thus Jesus could say that He was “in My Father.”
But He also told His disciples that “you [are] in Me.” This points to a different kind of close relationship, a legal or judicial one. When we are baptized “into Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) we are then “in Christ.” As a result God the Father views us as a part of Christ and counts us as righteous as Christ Himself. “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption –“ (I Cor. 1:30). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to His grace” (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14). Moreover, since we share this privilege with all other believers, collectively we form one body – the body of Christ, of which He is the Head and we are the individual members (I Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 2:13-21; 4:11-16).
And then Jesus says that “I [am] in you.” Here He is pointing to our mystical union with Himself, which is realized through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within in our hearts. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). What an awesome thought this is! That we would have the Spirit of Christ – God eternal, omnipotent and absolutely holy – dwelling within our hearts! What an awesome privilege, and yet at the same time a responsibility! And yet that is the blessed experience of every person who has been truly born of God!
Jesus says that “At that day you will know” all of this. The Greek used here for “know” is gnosesthe, which means to know by observation and experience as opposed to a mental process based on an intuition or information (Abbott-Smith). The disciples had heard Jesus teach; had a mental grasp of what He was saying. But after His resurrection and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they would know by actual experience. The abstract truth would become a living reality.
The question is, is it a living reality for us? Have we experienced the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives? For too long the modern church has neglected prayer and tried to “go on its own,” with disastrous results. Churches are dying and the surrounding culture is sinking deeper into a cesspool of sin. What is desperately needed is a revival – a genuine revival – a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church. But that will only come when we get down on our knees, go humbly to God in prayer, acknowledging our sins and our shortcomings, and ask Him to return and to bless. It is only then that we can expect to see real spiritual life and vitality in the church – to see the word being preached with real unction and convicting power, to see believers being lifted from their spiritual slumber and apathy, and see sinners coming to genuine repentance and faith in Christ. Even so come, Lord Jesus!
“All our knowledge, sense and sight
Lie in deepest darkness shrouded
Till thy Spirit breaks our night
With the beams of truth unclouded.
Thou alone to God canst win us;
Thou must work all good within us.”
(tr. by Catherine Winkworth)