How to Recognize a True Disciple — John 16:12-22

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13—NRSV).

How can we tell the true disciples of Jesus from His many followers in the crowds? Jesus’ disciples believed His signs and what He said. They wanted to learn everything He taught. They wanted to be with Him all the time, so they followed Him wherever He went. They loved Jesus and wanted the best for Him. They did what He told them. They took risks with Him and suffered for Him. Perhaps you can think of more characteristics, for Jesus’ true disciples think and act like Jesus’ first disciples. We know how Jesus treats His disciples by the way He treated His first disciples. Jesus does not give His disciples more than they can bear or cope with at the time. Before His arrest, Jesus did not tell His disciples all the details about His trial and suffering on the cross, for He knew they could not bear it then. Jesus’ disciples have the Spirit of Truth with them and in them to guide them into all the truth they need to know. The Spirit teaches Jesus’ disciples what He hears from the Father and the Son, and Jesus’ disciples can pray to the Father and the Son. The Spirit declares what Jesus’ disciples need to know about the future. When Jesus’ disciples weep, mourn, and suffer pain, they know their pain will turn to joy. Because they know Jesus, their hearts rejoice in all circumstances and no one can take the joy of Jesus from them.

Study the International Bible Study
Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

How Our Advocate Works — John 16:1-11

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you (John 16:7)

The Holy Spirit bestows many gifts on believers, and of major importance the Holy Spirit serves as their Advocate. He works as an indwelling Defense Attorney. When those of this world attack Christians, their Defense Attorney can give them the words to speak. When spiritually attacked, their Defense Attorney can remind them of Jesus’ words, so they do not lose confidence in their Savior and Lord. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit could only come after He went away. Jesus went away when He died on the cross and later ascended into heaven, which He and the Father planned because they wanted to forgive repentant sinners and uphold the just laws and kingdom of God at the same time. Together, they planned for Jesus to shed His blood so repentant sinners could be cleansed from all unrighteousness and become spiritually prepared to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit, who would guide them to live for God in a hostile world. In addition, the Holy Spirit works as a Prosecuting Attorney in the lives of believers and in the Church. Through the church, He proves the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. He convinces some that sin has consequences, living right is important to God, God has condemned the ruler of this world, and God will execute judgment. In the world, the Holy Spirit works through believers to help those He has proved wrong to repent and by grace receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Study the International Bible Study
Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Belong to Jesus or Belong to the World — John 15:18-27

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world—therefore the world hates you (John 15:19).

Jesus told His true disciples—ones He had chosen out of the world—some sobering facts that will help all His faithful followers around the world. First, remember that Jesus still chooses His followers out of the world to become His loving friends and devoted disciples. Second, remember that Jesus’ true disciples do not belong to the world—they belong to Jesus—therefore the world hates them. Third, to understand the world in which they live, the followers of Jesus must remember that the world still hates and persecutes Jesus’ followers. Why the hatred? Jesus said that those who persecute His followers do not know the Father who sent Him into the world. Even worse, Jesus said they hate the Father and Him. Those of this world saw, heard, and without cause crucified Jesus because they hated the Father, Jesus, and His disciples. If we understand these facts, then we will know some of the reasons those of this world believe and act as they do. Fourth, those who think, speak, and act as Jesus and His first disciples acted should expect the same reaction of hatred from the world. They will be hated by the world because the chosen followers of Jesus do not belong to this world. Fifth, remember if you follow Jesus, it is because Jesus chose you and sent the Spirit of Truth to live within you, so you could be a good witness for the Him whenever you tell others about Him—some will listen, believe, and love Him.

Study the International Bible Study
Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Coming to Know Jesus — John 4:42

Use for the Uniform Series Commentary, Activities, and International Bible Lesson on John 4:25–42

They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world” (John 4:42)

By studying the entire story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we learn many things about Jesus. First, unlike both Jews and Samaritans, Jesus was not racially prejudiced. He asked to drink from a water jar touched by a Samaritan. Second, unlike many Jews of His day, Jesus was not prejudiced against women. Jesus talked with women alone or in a crowd. Third, after the woman called Jesus a prophet, He did not deny her observation but wanted her to learn more truths about Him. Fourth, when the woman said that she knew the Messiah was coming and that He would proclaim all things to them, for the first time Jesus directly proclaimed that He was the Messiah. Fifth, after Jesus talked with her specifically about her sins and shared some other truths with her, she did not become gloomy and guilt ridden. Rather, Jesus totally transformed her. She knew her sins were forgiven, she was joyful, for the first time she was free from her addiction to sin, she was no longer withdrawn, and she enjoyed “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” Sixth, the truths Jesus taught her led her to rush back to town and tell the townspeople about Jesus, and her new life inspired the townspeople to want to meet Jesus too. Seventh, by the end of the day, many believed in Jesus because of her testimony and many more believed after they heard Jesus teach. They came to know that Jesus “is truly the Savior of the world.”

Use for the Uniform Series Commentary, Activities, and Study Resources on John 4:25–42

The Worshipers the Father Seeks — John 4:23

For the Uniform International Bible Lesson on John 4:25–42

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him (John 4:23)

For several years ministers and parishioners have discussed worship styles and the effects of contemporary, traditional, and blended worship styles on church growth. Debates on worship styles have even been labeled “the worship wars.” Missing from some of these conversations is the question, “What does God want?” When the Samaritan woman wanted to discuss true places of worship with Jesus, Jesus changed the focus and told her that more important than places of worship are what kind of worshipers the Father wanted. Jesus revealed to her that the Father wants, and even seeks, true worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. Perhaps ministers and parishioners need to pray and ask God how they can help people best worship God in spirit, with heartfelt love for God and a deep desire to glorify God, and what they can do to promote the true spirit of worship. Perhaps they need to ask the Father what they and others need to do to worship God in truth, with a right understanding of who God is and what He requires of His children. From reading the entire New Testament, translators are also justified when translating Jesus’ words as uppercase Spirit and Truth. The Father seeks those who will worship God in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus sends to indwell all who receive Him as Lord and Savior. Furthermore, the Father seeks those who worship God in Truth. In John 14:6 and in 17:17, Jesus proclaimed that He is the Truth and God’s Word is Truth.

For the Uniform Lesson on John 4:25–42

The Everlasting Joy in Jesus’ Friends

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father (John 15:15—NRSV).

Why did Jesus make known to us through His first disciples everything that He heard from His Heavenly Father? Jesus himself gave the answer in John 15:11, saying, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Jesus came and taught people how to live joyfully even during struggles that seem impossible to bear. When Jesus gives eternal life to all who believe in Him, He also gives them everlasting joy. Because the presence of Jesus Christ remains within them, His disciples can face this world with joy. Christians remain joyful in this troubled world because they trust in Jesus who abides within them, because they trust the truths He taught in the Bible, and because they receive love, joy, peace, and other fruit from the Holy Spirit. Like Jesus’ followers today, His first disciples obeyed Jesus because they loved Him. As they loved and obeyed their Master, He taught them more until He could call them friends and say to them, “I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” Before Jesus called His disciples His friends, He took three years to teach His disciples everything. Eleven of them responded with obedient love for Jesus, and Jesus made them friends who learned His goals and purposes. Today, Jesus’ followers still teach by word and example, and Jesus chooses new disciples and friends as new fruit on the branches of the vine.

Thinking Further

1. What examples did Jesus say He had given us as His disciples?

2. What commandments did Jesus give us as His disciples?

3. Why did Jesus show and tell us, His disciples, what He did?

4. What did Jesus call those who knew what He was doing? What does Jesus expect from those who know what He is doing?

5. What two names did Jesus use when He spoke of His disciples? What did He mean when He changed what He called them? What are we to Jesus? Why?

Study the International Bible Study
Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Holy Spirit Overcomes Our Troubles — John 14:24-31

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you (John 14:26—NRSV).

No follower of Jesus Christ goes through life abandoned or alone. Jesus still gives His faithful followers the gifts and promises He gave His first disciples. As followers of Jesus Christ encounter an unknown future, they have Jesus’ assurance that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell within them, work within them, and go with them. They have the assurance that the Spirit of Holiness and Truth will help them stand firm and keep loving Jesus, obeying Jesus, and trusting Jesus no matter what they encounter. They know that as they continue doing what they have learned from Jesus that the Holy Spirit will teach them how to act in every situation. As they read and study the Bible day-by-day, they know that the Holy Spirit will remind them of all the truths they need to remain strong and do right—even if they suffer afflictions or persecutions. In the world, Jesus’ followers have always encountered enemies and the one Jesus called “the ruler of this world,” but through His death and resurrection Jesus promised and proved that the ruler of this world has no power over Him (John 14:30). The enemies of Jesus have no ultimate power over Jesus’ followers. Through his faithful obedience, John learned that, “the One who is in you (believers) is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Because Jesus has given believers His peace and many precious promises, we can trust Him when He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

Study the International Bible Study Commentary and Lesson on The Gospel of John by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

The Epitome of True Love — John 13:34

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (John 13:34).

After Jesus had shown His disciples how much He loved them, and after Jesus had loved them perfectly for three years, Jesus gave them a new commandment. When Jesus gave His disciples this new commandment, He also expected them to love the LORD their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love their neighbors as themselves. Unhappily, we all love ourselves imperfectly and this affects how we love others. Jesus made His way of loving the perfect standard for Christian love. Jesus said that those who believe in Him needed to love their fellow believers as He loved all those who believe in Him. Jesus said that everyone should recognize Christians by the way they love one another. Christians love one another differently from the way they love others. For example, Jesus loved everyone, including the ones who wanted to kill Him or betray Him. He wanted what was best for everyone, so He told everyone the truth about God, the world, and how His Father loved them so much that He sent His Son to help people overcome their self-destructive tendencies and ways. Christians love others when they share this good news about God’s love in Jesus for everyone. When the followers of Jesus maintain a common faith in Jesus and the Bible, they love one another. They praise God and share their God-given joy and love with their fellow believers. Christian love enables Christians to feel heartfelt happiness when they gather to worship and work together. When serving others, Jesus’ love within Christians draws others into the circle of God’s love.

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and Lesson by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

Have A Blessed Day! — John 13:17

If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them (John 13:17)

As I walked out of a store recently, a customer behind me said to me, “Have a blessed day!” Though I have received that blessing before, I was truly blessed to hear it and receive it again, and I turned and thanked her. In today’s world where we hear so many cursing others, it is truly a blessing to hear someone bless you, for the blessing can send happiness into your heart. “Have a blessed day” is a Christian blessing; so how can we always enjoy a blessed day? After Jesus humbly washed His disciples’ feet, in John 13:13, Jesus said to them, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.” Jesus taught and showed His followers how to serve others, and He said, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Three fundamental or key elements in the Christian faith bring blessings to Christians. First, Christians accept Jesus as their Teacher. They believe what He taught about God, himself, and reality as revealed in the Bible. Second, Christians accept Jesus as their Lord. Christians believe Jesus is the Lord over all of life, and they kneel before Jesus because they have received Him as the Lord over all their life. Third, Christians face the world and all they see and hear with hope and happiness because they know their everlasting future is secure in the hands of their Savior. Building their lives on these foundational truths, Christians receive God’s blessing when they live according to what they know and believe to be true; when they love and serve others as Jesus commanded. Have a blessed day!

Study the International Bible Study Commentary and Lesson
by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.