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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

Introduction to the Spirit

John 16

Of some things Jesus talks directly; others, He hints. He hints about the Spirit, for the life of the church in the Spirit is something which must be experienced more than taught. In this section of his teaching on his last night before the Crucifixion he warns his disciples of trouble to come – and the Counselor of God who will help them overcome it.

It is best if we read the entire passage at once:

(John 16 NIV) "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. {2} They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. {3} They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. {4} I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. {5} "Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' {6} Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. {7} But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. {8} When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: {9} in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; {10} in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; {11} and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. {12} "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. {13} But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. {14} He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. {15} All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. {16} "In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me." {17} Some of his disciples said to one another, "What does he mean by saying, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,' and' Because I am going to the Father'?" {18} They kept asking, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We don't understand what he is saying." {19} Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me'? {20} I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. {21} A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. {22} So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. {23} In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. {24} Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. {25} "Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. {26} In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. {27} No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. {28} I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father." {29} Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. {30} Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God." {31} "You believe at last!" Jesus answered. {32} "But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. {33} "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."


Christ begins this section with a warning: you boys are going to have a lot of trouble. To be put out of the synagogue was the ultimate disgrace for a Jew. To have someone try to kill you and think it a service to God is indeed terrifying, but Jesus plainly tells them this is to happen. They should not be surprised when it does. The interesting point to this is not the persecution to come. Rather, He uses it to introduce to them the thought that the Counselor will come. This is one of the significant passages on the Holy Spirit; it deserves our careful attention. The first point is that our persecution in some way brings out the Spirit.

I find this comforting. I’ve often wondered how I would face persecution. When I think about it, I think of my own strength, and I feel certain I would fail. Perhaps Jesus saw this in the mind of his disciples and told them this to strengthen their courage. It is good to know that in time of trial the Spirit is strong.

The Spirit, the Counselor

We are familiar with the idea that the Holy Spirit is our Counselor, the one who comes along side us (paracletos). Sometimes we forget that the Spirit has a role in the world at large too.

Purpose: to convict the world

While the Spirit is our counselor, Christ here tells us that His purpose in the world is to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. We need to examine these three in some detail, for we are to bring the message of Christ to the world.

·         In regard to sin: We see a consistent theme in Scripture, that evil men will prefer the darkness to the light.[1] If you give the people no guidance, men go from bad to worse. Unfortunately, some Christians assume that this decay should be sufficient to convince them that things are evil and they had better repent. This is not so. Hear it again: men prefer the darkness. The test of this is when the Word is brought to them. Jesus, in the previous chapter, tells us[2] that if He had not spoken to the Pharisees they would not be guilty. But He has spoken and their guilt remains. Paul makes a similar point with reference to the Jewish law when he says he was alive apart from the law – but when the law arrived, he died.[3] So we see that one of the prime concerns of the Spirit is to see that everyone hears the good news of Jesus Christ – and becomes convinced of their sin. And if we will not tell them, how will they know?

·         In regard to righteousness: If I am sin, He is righteousness. This section refers to Christ’s death on the cross. When Pope Leo the Great preached the Gospel to Attila the Hun (who spared Rome in consequence) he came to the section where the Romans crucified Jesus. Attila was a rough man, but he knew injustice. “If I and my soldiers had been there, they would not have dared to do such a thing.” That is the conviction spoken of! It was necessary that Christ be sacrificed; “the Son of Man must be lifted up.”[4] The sacrifice for our sins must be paid by one of us, and that one must be perfectly righteous. That concept is a primary message from the Spirit, and should be one of ours too. This naturally brings up the question, “what should I do about it?

·         Righteousness is by faith: We need to accept that righteousness in faith, and in faith alone.[5]

·         He is our atonement: God made him “our sin” despite the fact he had no sin. He accepted that sacrifice; we must believe (count on) that.[6]

·         Wait in the Spirit: After accepting and believing, we must look forward to the return of our Lord – in the Spirit.[7]

·         In regard to judgment: Jesus, having been a man, knows our weaknesses but is without sin. As such, He is uniquely qualified to be our judge. He can sympathize with our weakness but never gave in to it. Indeed, the Scripture tells us that his authority to judge is as Son Of Man.[8] The Spirit is to convince the world of the judgment to come. We, as those indwelled by the spirit by the Spirit, should have the same conviction.

Purpose: to guide the disciples

What is a counselor for, if not to guide you? Jesus identifies three aspects of this counseling for the disciples:

Guide you in all truth. Some think of this only in terms of the inspiration of the Scripture. From the earliest times of the church, however, this is understood much more broadly (remember how the Spirit prevented Paul from going to Bithynia?[9]) Indeed, we see these things:

·         Revelation: not only of things that are, or are going to be, but much more of what ought to be. The Spirit enlightens our conscience with how things ought to be, and encourages us that they can become that way.

·         Indefectibility: This is the idea that the Spirit will not allow the church He loves to remain in error. It is the gentle correction of those who love the Lord, even though they may be sincerely and lovingly wrong.

·         Personal conviction: For us as individuals (and indeed as a body) the Spirit is to bring us to repentance for our sins. That is the corrective. There is also the Spirit encouraging us to acts of righteousness – and acts of love.

Tell you what is to come. This is usually thought of in the sense of the Book of Revelation, in which the Spirit revealed to John the outline of things to come. This is the formal sense of this passage. There is another sense in which it is personal. The Spirit warns us of things to come. Sometimes this is a message which saves us from danger, but more often it is the warning bell that says, “do not do this; leave now.” How often the prompting of the Spirit keeps us out of a particular mess! And when we ignore Him, how often the mess is messy indeed.

Bring glory to Jesus. So often Christians wonder if they really are indwelled by the Spirit. There is an easy test:

(1 Pet 4:14 NIV) If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

This is how the Spirit brings glory to Christ: that his disciples love him so much that they will suffer insult, ridicule and even horrible death for His name. The classic example of this is Stephen:

(Acts 7:55-60 NIV) But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. {56} "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." {57} At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, {58} dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. {59} While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." {60} Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Indeed, there are two ways the Spirit works in us to bring glory to Jesus. First, that we suffer for His name. Second, that we love one another.[10]

Change in Relationship

Christ ends the section with three thoughts which mark a profound change in our relationship with God. The Cross is the dividing point for this change. Before the Cross was the Old Testament priesthood; after the Cross everything changed.

·         We now have direct access to the Father: There is a change of priesthood. Before this time, if you wanted access to God, you had to go through a priest. But the Scripture tells us that the curtain in the Temple – which separated the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest could go – was torn from the top.[11] In Hebrews we learn that this curtain is interpreted as Christ’s body – in the sense that through his body we have access to God.[12] We, therefore, have been transformed from those who must seek access indirectly into a royal priesthood.[13] As such, we must perform the functions of priests! We have access to God; we are to use it to bless those around us. We are to worship and praise him.

·         “In me you have peace.” There is an interesting sense to this. We are told that he destroyed the “wall of hostility” between us and God.[14] In other words, he removed the root cause of the troubles between us and the Holy God. If I owe someone a lot of money our personal relationship will suffer if I can’t pay it back. But if someone else comes along and gives me the money to repay the debt, the personal relationship can be restored. That is what Jesus did for us. We are “justified” (i.e., made right) with God because we have faith, which therefore gives us peace with God.[15]

·         We will have trouble but he has overcome the world. Persecution is inevitable for a Christian.[16] Right now things aren’t too bad; mostly it’s ridicule. But wait. When the time comes, I trust we will show ourselves again “more than conquerors”[17] by the way we die. Old Athanasius used this as an argument for the Resurrection, you will recall. After all, see how calmly and triumphantly the Christian dies at the hands of his persecutors; would they do that if there were no Resurrection? Jesus has overcome the prince of this world, and so shall we.

How do we attain such a faith? Hear the Apostle tell us:

(1 John 5:3-5 NIV) This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, {4} for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. {5} Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

[1] John 3:18-21

[2] John 15:22

[3] Romans 7:9

[4] John 3:14

[5] Romans 3:22

[6] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[7] Galatians 5:5

[8] John 5:26-27

[9] Acts 16:7

[10] John 13:35

[11] Matthew 27:51

[12] Hebrews 10:19-20

[13] 1 Peter 2:9

[14] Ephesians 2:14-17

[15] Romans 5:1-2

[16] 2 Timothy 3:12

[17] Romans 8:36-37

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