The Helper – Part One

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper [Gr. Paracletos, one called alongside to help], that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you” (Jn 14:16-17).

In less than a chapter of John’s gospel, we have seen Jesus reveal all kinds of new information to His disciples.  He gave us a new commandment to love one another.  He offered a first peak into our forever home with Him in heaven.  He clarified the beauty of seeing the Father in the face of Jesus.  He promised “greater works” to those who believe.  And Jesus explained for the first time the vital link between our love for Him and a life of obedience to His commands.

Coming now to verse 16, we have another “new”; the Holy Spirit – the promised “Helper” – living in us.  We have a hint of the Spirit in us in Jesus great proclamation at the feast in John chapter 7, ” ‘He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” ‘  But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn 7:38-39).

But here in this passage we have the start of a fuller explanation of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus promises to petition the Father and also promises that the Father will answer by giving us His Holy Spirit.  What aspects of the Holy Spirit’s presence does Jesus reveal here?

First, the Holy Spirit will be sent to us by the Father in answer to Jesus’ prayer.  Second, the Spirit will be “another” [Gr. allos, another of the same sort; not heteros, different] meaning that He will be a “Helper” in the same way that Jesus has been to the disciples.  Third, He will be with us forever.  Fourth, He will be known as the Spirit of truth.  Jesus referred to Himself as “the truth” (Jn 14:6).  The Spirit, as Jesus’ equal, will also be known as true.  Fifth, the world will not be able to receive God’s Spirit, because the world does not know or recognize Him.  Sixth, the Spirit abides with the disciples at that time through the physical presence of Jesus.

Last, and I think the most radical idea of them all, the “Spirit will be IN you.”  Will be IN you.  Will be IN us.  Will be IN you and me.  At the time of Jesus’ words, God’s Spirit dwelt with the disciples through the presence of Jesus, the God-man.  But a future time is coming, after Jesus has physically departed, when the Spirit will literally live IN the disciples.  And by our faith in Christ and His work on the cross to bring us into His family, the Spirit will live IN us as well.

We will see more promises about the Helper in the chapters ahead.  For now, let’s embrace the astonishing promise that the Spirit of Christ is living IN us.

To Love and Obey

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15).

This short verse packs a powerful message.  It starts us on a theme we will see many times in John’s gospel as well as in his letters.

Earlier in the book of John, Christ talked about the love of God toward us.  It’s most famous instance is in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world …”  Then in chapter 13, Jesus turned to our love for each other with, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another” (Jn 13:34).  Now, for the first time in the book of John, Jesus speaks of our love for Him.  What does it look like to love Jesus?

It starts with obedience,  To Jesus, love and obey are intrinsically linked.  There really is no separating the two.

  • “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
  • “He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me” (Jn 14:21).
  • “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (Jn 14:23).
  • “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (Jn 15:10).

Let’s be clear.  Obedience is not a means of our salvation.  Our salvation, our deliverance, our rescue is a free gift of God; a complete work of Christ who died for us.  But Christ is tapping into the fact that in our new nature, the natural response to the salvation, deliverance, and rescue is love toward the Deliverer.

And empowered by the Spirit living inside us, the natural demonstration of our love for Christ is to obey His words.  The reason Christ can say this so succinctly without exceptions or “what ifs” is because love, gratitude, and obedience is the expected response from those whom Christ has rescued. It should come “naturally” to us as we tap into our new heart that is soft toward God.

We often see this link in our human relationships.  When I started college at a large public university, I am not embarrassed to say that my love for my parents was a big influence in obeying God.  My parents in their affirming way had high expectations of me staying on the straight and narrow.  I did not want to let them down.  This not wanting to let them down was not based on fear or people-approval or shame.  It was wholly based on how much I loved my mom and dad.  As I transitioned to my adult life with my own choices, the intermediate step was obeying God because I loved my parents.  By God’s grace, it grew into obeying God because I love Jesus.

Let’s never cast aside the importance of obedience because it has been misused by Old Covenant thinking and rule-keeping and legalism.  Jesus makes the vital link between love and obedience for us.  Keeping His commandments is the flower that blooms from our love for our Savior.

Asking in the Name of Jesus

“And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (Jn 14:13-14).

Here in chapter 14 of the gospel of John, we have repeatedly seen Jesus emphasize His connection to the Father.  “If you have known Me, you have known the Father.  If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”  Jesus now extends that connection to answered prayer.

I think “asking in Jesus’ name” is recognizing that Jesus is our way to the Father; here talking specifically about prayer.  Just a few verses above, Jesus called Himself “the way” to the Father.  “No one comes to the Father, but through Me” (Jn 14:6).  Now the focus in on Jesus as the way to the Father in prayer.

Jesus will answer our prayer – “I will do it” – by working in unison with the Father – “the Father abiding in Me does His works” (Jn 14:10) – to carry out the answer.

Now let’s admit right off the top that this promise of answered prayer looks basically unlimited.  Is Jesus promising that a string of “yes” answers is about to come our way?  “Whatever you ask … Ask Me anything … and I will do it.”  I have written often about prayer, faith, boldness, etc and here are just a few of those posts:  What Do You Want Me to Do for You?     Our Counterattack – Prayer and Faith     Parenting with the Parables – The Persistent Widow     Can Faith Change the Outcome?     Can Faith Control the Outcome?

In the specific verses above from John 14, notice Jesus’ words, “This I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  Somehow, our requests, Jesus’ answers, and Jesus’ actions will all line up to bring God glory.  Somehow, God’s glory as seen in the Son will be displayed in our answered prayers.

Our humble role before the Lord is to never give up in prayer.  To call upon the Lord at all times.  To “devote ourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col 4:2).  And to look for the glory of God displayed in His answers.

Greater Works

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father” (Jn 14:12).

This verse connects our faith to a stunning promise of Jesus.  Jesus says that if we believe in Him, we will do works such as His and in fact do even greater works.  How is this even possible?

The key is in the second prerequisite to the greater works after our faith; Jesus going to the Father.  Because Jesus is going to the Father, His followers will do greater works than He.

The fulfillment of the promise is clear to us now, but its first utterance had to be confusing to the disciples.  But it did not take long to be fulfilled.

Following Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, His band of followers numbered around 120 people.  On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit – only available now because Jesus went to the Father (Jn 16:7) – fell as a rushing wind and indwelt Jesus’ disciples.  A Spirit filled Peter preached a message of repentance and forgiveness in the person and work of Jesus and 3000 souls were saved.  The church was born.

Jesus’ work on earth was limited to a specific time and place and reach that one man, even the Son of God, “could” (or more accurately “chose”) to accomplish.  This was part of God’s plan when He sent His Son in the form of a man.  But now, on the day of Pentecost and hereafter, God was no longer working on earth through one man, Jesus.  God was actually indwelling and working through 12 apostles, and 120 people, and 3000 new believers, and by today in the billions.

God can be a lot of places and be doing “greater works” when He lives and works through a billion believers.  Jesus said, “The works that I do shall you do also.”  These “greater works” are still the work of Jesus.  But they are no longer accomplished by His presence among us.  They are accomplished by His Spirit within us.

Take courage.  God is still at work in this world.  And you are a part of that work.  You are a recipient of the work of God and an agent of the work of God.  His work is all around and in you.  You are part of God’s “greater works”.

Knowing the Father

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”  Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip?  He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?  The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.  Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.” (Jn 14:7-11).

Jesus makes clear in this passage that He and the Father are one.  He goes so far to say that if you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father.  Or course, with only a hint at the concept of the Trinity, the disciples are scratching their collective heads.  Philip speaks for the group with what sounds like a reasonable request, “Show us the Father.”

Jesus states more than once in these verses that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him; that if you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father.  So the answer to “Show us the Father” is Jesus standing right in front of you.

But there is a requirement to see the Father in Jesus; faith in Christ.  Jesus said, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? … Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me.”  Faith is required to see the Father in the face of the Son.

Jesus goes on to give the disciples two avenues to exercise their faith.  They are to believe Jesus’ words about who He is; He is in the Father and the Father in Him.  But as they try to process what these words exactly mean, Jesus gives them an alternative path, “Believe on account of the works themselves.”

Jesus gives the disciples some space to come to grips with His statements.  “Look at the works themselves,” Jesus says.  “You will see that the Father abiding in Me is doing His work.  The works I do are the works of God.”  To extend Jesus’ thought, I think He is saying only God can do the works you have witnessed.  And these works testify that I and the Father are working in unison and it is the work of God that you have seen in these three years of miracles.  These signs and wonders can only be the work of God the Father; working through Me because I and the Father are one.

I love the compassion in Jesus’ words.  He is essentially saying to His friends, “If this concept of I am in the Father and the Father is in Me has your head spinning, focus on the works themselves.  They testify to who I am.  They testify that I am the divine Son of God.  I am doing works that only God can do.”