The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

“And He [the Holy Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (Jn 16:8-11).

As our Helper and advocate, we can view the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney who always has our back.  But when He interacts with the unbelieving world, we see a new role for the Holy Spirit; prosecuting attorney.  Here He is accusing, not defending.  The Holy Spirit will convict, expose, refute, and convince the world of their wayward path.

Concerning sin:  The Holy Spirit will expose the world’s error concerning sin.  The world of the unbelieving (“because they do not believe in Me”) are committing the ultimate, and might we say unforgivable sin, of not believing in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will expose this for what it is.  Not believing in Jesus is not a sign of open-mindedness or a wide-ranging intellect.  No, unbelief is exactly what Jesus claims it to be; a sin.  As F.F. Bruce writes, “The rejection, condemnation, and execution of Jesus expressed in violent clarity the world’s refusal to believe in Him; that unbelief is now exposed as sin.”

Concerning righteousness:  The emphasis in John’s gospel on the oneness of the Son and the Father in love, authority, and honor flows right into this passage.  The righteous Son is returning to His righteous Father.  Christ’s resurrection and return to the Father demonstrates that Christ is the righteous sacrifice without spot or blemish.

Concerning judgment:  And finally, the ruler of this world has been judged.  The coming presence of the Spirit will confirm that this judgment has, in fact, taken place.  Look back at Jesus’ prophesy in John chapter 12, ” ‘Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out.  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.’  But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die” (Jn 12:31-33).

Christ is predicting, and it happened, that Satan the ruler of this world will be judged when Christ is lifted up.  That is Satan will be judged and defeated at the cross.  One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit to the unbelieving world will be to confirm that the adversary, the ruler of the world, has been judged, defeated, and deposed.

The Holy Spirit will have an incredible role in the life of the believer; a role expounded upon throughout the rest of the New Testament.  But the three-fold ministry of the Spirit here in these verses is directed at the unbelieving world.  A world that will be judged for their sin of unbelief according to the most righteous of courts.

The Helper – Part Four

“But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them.  And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are you going?’  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.  But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (Jn 16:4-7).

Jesus has been sharing many new insights with His disciples here in the upper room just prior to His betrayal and arrest.  And the reason these truths were not explained earlier is because it was not necessary.  The disciples had Jesus with them, “from the beginning” as Jesus states, and they could question Him or explore any topic at any time.

But now Jesus is filling the disciples minds with many new things so that when He is gone – and His departure is imminent – they will be able to remember what Jesus said and taught.  Here, on the very doorstep of Jesus going back to “Him who sent Me”, He recognizes a sense of sadness coming upon His followers.  He sees the “sorrow that fills their hearts”.

So Jesus comes back to a topic meant to spark hope around His departure; the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus returns now to the person of the Helper, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  Jesus not only promises to send the Holy Spirit, but speaks as if it will even be better that Jesus goes away and the Spirit comes.  Jesus says that it will actually be “to their advantage” that He goes away.

Wow!  “To their advantage” is an awfully bold statement.  There is something better than the physical presence of Jesus?  Something better than Jesus in the flesh?  In my sacred imagination, I am not sure if that is even possible.  But I believe it because Jesus said it, and He emphasizes that He is telling the truth.  “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away” (Jn 16:7).

How can Jesus going away be “to their advantage”?  How is this to our advantage?  The short answer is that the Holy Spirit can only come to us if Jesus goes away.  They are trading places in an incredible way.  And Jesus is making quite clear that the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is more advantageous to us than Jesus’ physical presence.

The long answer is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the world and our lives.  We will learn more about this next time.

Do You “Know” the Father and the Son?

“These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.  They will make you outcasts from the synagogue; but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.  And these things they will do, because they have not known the Father, or Me.  But these things I have spoken to you, that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (Jn 16:1-4).

Jesus’ words about the hateful response of the world to us and our gospel message is a “heads up” to His followers.  By letting the disciples in on what is coming their way, Jesus is preparing His friends so they will not shrink back or be fearful.  He goes so far as to prophesy that those who seek to kill the disciples will think they are offering a service to God.

We see this come true in the early life of the church.  In Acts chapter 7, the bold witness of Stephen is met with death at the hands of the people, incited by the Jewish leaders.  Saul, later to become the apostle Paul, who witnessed this execution clearly fit the prediction of one who persecuted the church thinking he was serving God.  “And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting Stephen to death” (Acts 8:1).

But God rescued Saul from that path and, as the apostle Paul, he went on to a life of fruitful ministry.  What Satan, the force behind the hatred of the world, meant for evil, God turned into good.  Paul later wrote, “Christ Jesus considered me faithful, putting me into service; even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.  And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief” (I Tim 1:12-13).

Paul acted ignorantly in unbelief because he did not know the true Jesus.  Why is it that the world will hate Jesus and His followers?  “Because they have not known the Father or Me” (Jn 16:3).  We have seen before throughout the book of John that when it comes to knowledge of, love for, honor to, and abiding in, there is no separation between the Father and the Son.

If you have seen the Son, you have seen the Father.  If you love the Son, you love the Father who sent Him.  If you show honor to the Son, you are honoring God, the Father.  If you abide in Christ, you are abiding in the Father’s loving hand.  What separates the world that hates the Father and the Son and those of us who love the Father and the Son is … “Do you ‘know’ the Father and the Son?”

To “know” is to believe.  To “know” is to embrace the gospel message of Jesus.  To “know” is to accept Jesus’ free gift of eternal life and become a child of God.  That “know” separates the world who hates and the children of God who love the Father and the Son.

When Jesus warns the disciples that they will be expelled from the synagogue, they have no idea that the synagogue will take on less and less importance as the church develops.  The synagogue will stand as a center of the fading Jewish religion, and the presence of God will soon be evident in His church and in His people.  Outcasts from the synagogue will actually become the ultimate insiders; beloved children of the God Most High.

The Helper – Part Three

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” (Jn 15:26-27). 

Here is the third reference – in Jesus’ upper room message – to the Helper, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  And He is again called “the Spirit of truth” (See Jn 14:17).  The Spirit’s witness concerning Jesus the Christ is going to be completely true.  It is going to be completely correct.  And it is to be completely believed.

The message here is that the witness that Jesus gave during His time on the earth through His words and works would not come to an end when He is no longer here.  Jesus has been preparing His disciples for His departure throughout these chapters in John’s gospel.  The Spirit is here identified as the one who will take up this ministry of witness (“He will bear witness of Me”) and carry it on.  And He will carry it on through Christ’s disciples (“and you will bear witness also”).

It is not surprising that this revelation about the Spirit’s role comes at the end of this passage about Christ and His followers being hated and persecuted by the world.  If you look back to Mark chapter 13, Jesus made a similar statement about the connection between persecution and the witness of the Spirit though the disciples.  “And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit” (Mk 13:11).

Wow!  What a promise!  The Holy Spirit will speak through you.  How comforting.  How empowering!

We see this exact fulfillment in the book of Acts.  When the apostle Peter and his friends, brought before the high priest and council, proclaim the certainty and the power of the resurrection of Jesus, Peter concludes his remarks with, “And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:32).

Of course, it required the Holy Spirit coming on the Day of Pentecost and filling Christ’s followers.  From that day forward, the message has been proclaimed with the power and the witness of the Holy Spirit.  To say a person comes to faith by the revelation and call of the Holy Spirit is not a spiritual cliche.  It is, in fact, God’s plan in action.

A final thought about the Trinity as we close John chapter 15.  We have seen in this and the other Helper passages that Jesus will send the Spirit.  The Spirit will proceed from the Father.  The Father will send the Spirit in Jesus’ name.  It is not important to parse who of the Trinity is doing exactly what.  The message is that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are working in concert to fulfill all that God has promised.  Our God is amazing!

The Father and the Son

“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  He who hates Me hates My Father also.  If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well.  But they have done this in order that the word may be fulfilled that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’ ” (Jn 15:22-25).

If Christ had not come, the world would not be aware of their sin or the guilt their sin produced.  The calamity of sin and guilt would seem like the norm for the human race.  But Christ came to offer freedom from sin and guilt through His death in our place and His resurrection from the dead.

Everything that Christ spoke (“spoken to them”) and all that Christ did (“the works which no one else did”) was to draw men and women to Himself and the freedom that He offered.  But the world of Christ’s day and the world of our day have for a large part rejected Him.  “But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him” (Jn 12:37).

What Christ makes clear in John 15 is that hatred directed at Jesus is hatred directed at God Himself.  Recall a similar connection in John chapter 5 when Jesus was talking to the Jewish leaders.  It was an occasion when they were actively seeking to kill Jesus.  Jesus is speaking.  “The Father has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father.  He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (Jn 5:22-23).

In John chapter 5, the honor of the Father and the Son are tightly linked.  Jesus is making it clear that no one can refuse the Son’s claims and still say they honor the Father.  This is exactly what Jesus’ opponents were trying to do.  They claimed to be followers of God, but at the same time were seeking to kill the one who claimed to be His Son.  The honor of God the Father and Jesus the Son are inextricably linked.

Back to our passage above, Christ said that the world that has seen Him has seen the Father also.  And by hating the Son, the world was despising the Father as well.  “They have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (Jn 15:24).  The Son and the Father are inseparable regarding our belief in them, our honor of them, or one’s hatred of them.  If the people of Jesus day had recognized Jesus as the Son of God, they would have seen the Father in Him.  But by rejecting the Son, they were rejecting the Father as well.

Jesus came to show the world the love of God.  The world’s reaction – with the exception of His disciples and followers who were just capturing a glimpse of who He really was – was hatred all the way to a public execution.  Jesus came to show them the light, but the world chose darkness.  The world rejected the light and the life.  The world chose darkness and death.

“In Him [Jesus] was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness did not comprehend it” (Jn 1:4-5).  We are now a light in this darkened world.  May we bear witness to the light.  May we reflect the light.  May we be the light.  And through this light bring comprehension, understanding, and hope to all men.