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Life of Christ (2007-2009)

On the Holy Spirit

John 16:5-15

Lesson audio

The Trinity is indeed a great mystery. But no part of the Trinity is more a mystery than the Holy Spirit. We see in outline form here the various roles and functions of the Holy Spirit:

John 16:5-15 NASB "But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' (6) "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. (7) "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. (8) "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; (9) concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; (10) and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; (11) and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (12) "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. (13) "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. (14) "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. (15) "All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

The Holy Spirit As…

It is easiest, perhaps, to teach the roles of the Holy Spirit as given here. There are three which may be concluded from the various translations of the word here translated as “Helper.”

Advocate

Also known as intercessor, there are two prominent forms of this:

  • Have you ever known what you wanted to pray for – but not how? Wish you could have a translator? Often enough we understand our own motives well enough to know that we can’t be pure enough to “put it right.” How can I say “thy will be done” at the same time as “Lord, I need?” I don’t know how, but the Spirit does.[1]
  • Sometimes it’s not what I want but how I feel. To be specific, lonely, left out, misunderstood and wondering why I’m the only one to feel like that. The Spirit then connects us to our Father in heaven[2], who wants us to be in fellowship with him.
Counselor

Things go both ways. We need to speak to God, but we also need to listen. The Spirit does this for us as well. For example:

  • The Spirit is a frequent guide to “what to do next.” The Apostle Paul was guided this way geographically[3]; others have a similar story to tell.[4]
  • The Spirit is also the counselor to the church, being concerned with the unity of the church.[5] It is good for us to dwell together in unity.
  • The most frequent source of counsel for the Christian is the Bible, the Word of God. It is no accident that this is described as the “sword of the Spirit.”[6] Is it any wonder, therefore, that we hear Christians say that the Word was speaking to them?
Comforter

Sometimes you just need an arm around your shoulders. It is a great comfort to know that God will not forsake you; indeed, more than that the Spirit resides in you.[7] If there is one time at which a Christian needs such comfort, it is at the death of a loved one. Is not the Spirit the pledge of life to come?[8]

Convicting the World

(The astute reader will note that the Scripture is taken from the NASB, not the NIV. The reason is found in verse 8. The NIV, almost alone, adds the phrase “of guilt” to the text. This is a reflection of the modern view that guilt is a feeling, not a fact. A similar reasoning will tell you why the NIV often refers to sinners as “sinners.” Sin and guilt are just emotions in this view, and with proper counseling will go away. The view is entirely modern; there is no evidence that Christ, the Apostles or anyone else before the 20th century ever believed this nonsense.)

Sin

What about this concept, sin? Christ tells us that it is the work of the Spirit to convict the world of sin – because they did not believe Christ. The argument is simple: Christ on this earth gave convincing proof that he was supreme over sin – and the religious leaders of his time simply refused to believe. While He was in the world there was time for repentance; now all time is urgent.

How so? Sin is a fact, not a feeling. So even if I don’t “feel” sinful, I am a sinner. This is the first step on the road to salvation, realizing that I’m not perfect, and I need to do something about it. So for the world, this is the “first contact” point.

For those who are already Christians, conviction of sin is just as important – for it leads to repentance. Indeed, we are told to “walk in the Spirit.”[9]

Righteousness

Christ then tells us the world is to be convicted of righteousness “because I go to the Father.” Huh? The explanation is simple: He lived a blameless life. He is sinless. Therefore, righteousness does exist – we have the example in front of our faces. So it’s not hopeless!

This carries some important implications:

  • All this presumes the existence of right and wrong. If right and wrong both exist, then righteousness exists.
  • And with whom does it exist, if not with God? God, Christ and the Holy Spirit are righteous. And I’m not. There’s step 2.
  • Because of this, I am separated from God until I accept his pardon.
Judgment

Christ then brings up judgment – “because the prince of this world is judged.” How is this? Because the prince of this world, Satan, has condemned an innocent man. All others who died were sinners, and Satan can plead that they deserved it – in a sense, they are his lawful prey. But not Christ. Satan is shown for what he is.

Do you not see that God, who is righteousness, MUST judge the world – and its prince? This case is so clear as to leave no doubt; God must judge. And if he judges its prince, He must judge the world with him. This is step 3.

BUT – by His great love he has offered us mercy, for Christ is our atonement sacrifice. His justice is satisfied by this, and he offers us this as his grace. This, if you will, is step 4 – accepting his grace.

Now you understand the unforgivable sin: If you will not follow all the steps, you will not be saved. If you deny your sinfulness, you will not get to step 2. If you deny God’s righteousness, you will not get to step 3. If you ignore his warning of judgment, you will not get to step 4. And if you will not accept his grace (step 4) then you will not be saved. That’s why the sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.

The Spirit of Truth

We may see the connection of the Holy Spirit to Truth in several ways.

Guide to all truth

How does the Spirit guide us into all truth?

  • One way is in public speaking – we are told not to worry about what we will say, the Spirit will guide us.[10]
  • Sometimes there are changes necessary in the church – for example, when Peter had to be convinced that Gentiles had a place in the church as well as Jews.[11]
  • Most of all, the Spirit sees the deep things of God – and brings them to us.[12]
Not his own

We should not need to point this out, but in this day and age it seems prudent to do so. There is only one Truth. Period. Therefore the Spirit doesn’t proclaim the “Spirit’s truth” (as opposed to Christ’s, or the Father’s.) Instead we find that the Spirit (verse 14) glorifies Christ, not Himself. He does this by taking what is Christ’s (which is also what is God the Father’s) and conveying it on Christ’s behalf (verse 15).

This is sometimes confusing. May I give you a simple mnemonic for how this works? The ancient church held that all good things came “from the Father, by the Son, through the Spirit.” It helps to know your prepositions.

What is to come

An often neglected aspect of the Spirit’s ministry is that of prophecy – the foretelling of things to come.

  • It may surprise you to learn this, but all prophecy comes through the Spirit.[13]
  • One good example of this is given by Paul[14], where he teaches us that in the last days some will fall away. Hmmmmmm.
  • But there is a most solemn example of this. Seven times in the Book of Revelation[15] we are warned “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The Spirit is comfort and guide; the Spirit convicts the world of sin and judgment – and brings the church into all truth, no matter how disturbing that might be.


[1] Romans 8:26-27

[2] Galatians 4:6

[3] Acts 16:6-7

[4] Including your author

[5] Ephesians 4:1-6

[6] Ephesians 6:17

[7] 1st Corinthians 3:16

[8] 2nd Corinthians 5:5

[9] Romans 8:1-14

[10] Mark 13:11, but see also 1st Peter 3:15

[11] Acts 10:44-47

[12] 1st Corinthians 2:10-14

[13] 2nd Peter 1:21

[14] 1st Timothy 4:1

[15] Starting with Revelation 2:7, for each of the seven churches.

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