THE DIVINE TRINITY IN JOHN 14—17
The central message of the Gospel of John is found in chapters fourteen through sixteen and in the concluding prayer in chapter seventeen. What these four chapters speak about is the Divine Trinity, and their framework is the Divine Trinity. In my youth when I attended the Sunday worship in Christianity, I heard some of the people speak about John 14. Mostly they told us that the Lord Jesus said, “I am the way and the reality and the life” (v. 6). They also said that the Lord Jesus was going away, but because He was very concerned for us, He asked the Father to give us another Comforter that He might be with us forever (v. 16), and now the Comforter has come and is taking care of us. Then others said that in chapter fifteen the Lord Jesus described the intimate relationship between Him and us by likening it to the relationship between the vine and the branches (v. 5); therefore, we should have such an intimate relationship with Him. Although they saw these things, what they saw was superficial; they did not see the Triune God as the framework.
We need to see that from the very beginning of chapter fourteen the Triune God is pointed out. The Lord said that He was going to the Father and that where He was going, the disciples knew the way. But the disciples said that they did not know the way and therefore asked Him to tell them what the way was. Then the Lord said, “I am the way and the reality and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (vv. 1-6). To be “through” the Lord means to pass through the Lord. For the sake of readability, the Chinese Bible translators rendered to the Father as to where the Father is, which is not what the Greek text says. As a result, Bible readers pay attention to where, thinking that it denotes a place, and neglect the Father Himself. This is a great deviation.
Then the Lord continued His speaking, and Philip came in to interrupt Him (vv. 7-8). Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.” This means that Philip thought that he and the other disciples had been with the Lord three and a half years, yet every day they saw Him only as a Nazarene; even though the Lord had been telling them about the Father, He had never shown them the Father. Therefore, Philip asked the Lord to show them the Father, and it would be sufficient for them. Then, greatly surprised, the Lord Jesus said, “Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how is it that you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?” (vv. 9-10). Here, the Lord presented the Son with the Father. In the Lord’s speaking, the Father and the Son are inseparable because They are in each other mutually.
Then in verses 16 and 17 the Lord went on to say, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever, even the Spirit of reality.” The Son asked the Father to send the Spirit, and when the Spirit comes, He is not only the Comforter but also the Spirit of reality. Comforter is a term that is not easy to understand; few can render an accurate translation. When the British scholars were translating the Bible, they found some words that are not translatable, so they simply turned the Greek words directly into English, using them as English words. For example, baptize is the anglicized form of the Greek word baptizo. Likewise, paraclete is the anglicized form of the Greek word paracletos. This word has a variety of meanings, such as a “nurse,” a “counsel,” a “physician,” a “nursing mother,” and an “attendant.” Darby said that this word has the same sense as that of the Roman “patron.” A patron is one who is always beside us to meet our needs, take care of our case, and plead our cause. When the Spirit comes, He comes as such a One.
Furthermore, He is also the Spirit of reality. The Greek word for reality is aletheia, a word that is also very difficult to explain. It denotes something that is genuine, real, substantial, concrete. This means that although the Lord spoke so much about the Father, and although He Himself had been with the disciples for such a long time, they still could not touch Him. They had to wait until the Spirit would come to make the Father and the Son a reality in them. Therefore, the Spirit is the Spirit of reality. When the Spirit enters into the believers, the Triune God is realized in them and mingled with them to become their life and essence. This is the Triune God unveiled to us from the very beginning of John 14.
John 15 and 16 also speak about the Triune God. Both chapters fourteen and fifteen have a verse 26 that refers to the Triune God. John 14:26 says, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My [the Son’s] name”; 15:26 says, “But when the Comforter comes, whom I [the Son] will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of reality, who proceeds from the Father.” Chapter fourteen says that the Father would send the Spirit in the Son’s name; then chapter fifteen says that the Son would send the Spirit from the Father. The sense in Greek for the word from in 15:26 is “from with.” This means that the Father sends the Spirit in the Son, and the Son sends the Spirit from the Father and also with the Father. Furthermore, when the Spirit comes, He comes from the Father; that is, He comes from the Father and also with the Father. And since the Father is in the Son, the Son also comes. Hence, when the Spirit comes, the Triune God comes.
These things simply cannot be described by human language; they are hard to translate and even harder to explain. Therefore, most Christians dare not touch or speak these things because they are really too difficult. What does it mean that the Father sends the Spirit in the Son? Since the Father has sent the Spirit, how is it that later the Son also sends the Spirit from the Father. Who then sends the Spirit? Is it the Father or the Son? The more we explain, the more puzzling it is. Although this truth is hard to comprehend, it becomes clear in our experience and realization.
Even when the Lord Jesus was preaching the truth on the earth, it was also hard for people to understand. In John 6 the Lord’s word was so difficult to understand that many of the disciples said, “This word is hard; who can hear it?” And they went back to what they had left behind and no longer walked with Him (vv. 60, 66). Then the Lord said to the twelve, of whom Peter was the leading one, “Do you also want to go away?” Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (vv. 67-68). We see that at that time, the confused Peter was the clearest among all the others. At the end of chapter six he was very clear and not mixed up at all. How do we know? In this chapter the Lord Jesus did not use the phrase words of eternal life; He only said that “the words which I have spoken…are life” (v. 63). Yet Peter understood and coined the phrase words of eternal life. This proves that Peter was truly clear. Today some say that when we read the Bible, we should not change its words. But that day in his answer, Peter “changed” the Lord’s words. When Peter heard the Lord’s speaking, he realized that since the Lord’s words were spirit and life, they had to be words of eternal life. Therefore, although many of the disciples did not understand what the Lord was saying, at least there was one, Peter, who understood.
Hence, I hope that, first of all, you will have a basic knowledge concerning the Divine Trinity. Then whether in the study of the Bible, in the spiritual service, or in the growth in life, you will have a foundation. Next, you must also see that our God, the Triune God in the universe, has a purpose, a plan, an intention, and a work. Since He is not a confused or mixed up God, He certainly has an economy; this is another great matter that we must see.
(The Revelation and Vision of God, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)