The Gospel of John: Figurative Language.

“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” (John 16:25-28)

What did Jesus mean when He used the phrase “figurative language” (NKJV) or as used in the ESV “figures of speech?” The phrase is from the Greek word παροιμία (paraoimia) meaning a parable, an allegory or a proverb. It also may refer to use of obscure words which are full of veiled or hidden meanings. John Bunyan’s masterful work Pilgrim’s Progress would qualify as an allegory or a parable, specifically concerning salvation.

Jesus had used figurative language to describe His person and work. Examples would include His seven “I Am” statements comparing Himself to bread, light, a gate, a shepherd, resurrection and life, the way, the truth and the life and a vine. (See respectively John 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15). These figures of speech were hard for the disciples to understand while Jesus was with them (Mark 4:10-20). The disciples would understand these allegories following His death, burial and resurrection and with the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13-14; Acts 2).

Dr. John MacArthur writes, “They (the disciples) would actually understand the ministry of Christ better than they had while they were with him, as the Spirit inspired them to write the Gospels and epistles and ministered in and through them.”

The phrase “in that day” again refers to the Day of Pentecost (16:23) and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. It would be the initiation of the church age and the Spirit would enable each believer in Christ to boldly approach God the Father in prayer (Hebrews 4:14-16). Answered prayer from the Father would be based solely upon the imputed righteousness of Christ to the believer and the resulting glory and honor and praise of God the Son.

Theologian Robert Rothwell writes, With the outpouring of the Spirit, the disciples will enjoy a greater understanding of our Savior’s person and work. We can see this in the history of the Apostolic period. The same disciples who once could not accept that Jesus would die became mighty preachers of the cross (Matt. 16:21–23Acts 2). In fulfillment of today’s passage, they finally understood. Jesus spoke to them plainly.”

Can you recall in times past when you didn’t or couldn’t understand the Bible? However, when God saved you the doctrines and teachings of Scripture same alive and clear. Thank God at this moment for the illuminating ministry by the Holy Spirit on behalf of believers in Christ.

May truth and grace reside here.

Soli deo Gloria!




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