STUDY 22: JOHN 15 – 16 - FURTHER TEACHING ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009

 

A. THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CONTEXT OF HATRED AND PERSECUTION

As we have seen in the previous lesson, the gift of the Spirit is relevant to our survival in the midst of the world’s hatred and persecution. All that Jesus says in 15:26 he has already told us in Chapter 14, but he repeats it here in this context because of the comfort and encouragement we should draw from it.

Reflect on these facts about the Holy Spirit in John 15:26. How does each of these support the believer in the context of hatred and persecution?

The fact that the Holy Spirit is the ‘Counsellor’ – the ‘advocate’, the one called alongside.

 

The fact that the Holy Spirit is the ‘Spirit of truth’ – who teaches us the truth and helps us to understand it.

 

The fact that the Holy Spirit is sent to us from both the Son and the Father.

 

The fact that the Holy Spirit testifies to us about Jesus.

 

 

B. THE SUPERIOR GOOD OF THE HOLY SPIRIT’S PRESENCE

In 16:5-16 Jesus returns to the fact that he is going away, and points out that his returning to the Father and subsequent sending the Holy Spirit to them is far better than his staying with them in his incarnate form.

As Christians we often envy the disciples’ face to face contact with Jesus Christ. We wish that we could walk with him, listen to him, ask him questions, actually see him and hear him face to face. We forget the limitations of both his humanity and ours: We forget that in human flesh Jesus could only be in one place at one time – that if he was here with us teaching us, it would mean that he was not elsewhere, that only we, of all the Christians on the earth, could enjoy his presence at that moment, hearing his teaching, requesting his explanations, observing his compassion. And if he was physically present with believers elsewhere, he could not also be here with us. We would be left as orphans – a thing he said he would never do [ 14:18 ].

So, he says, it is better for us if he goes away, because if he goes away he will send the Spirit.

On the basis of what Jesus says in these verses, describe the superior good of the presence of the Spirit.

16:7

 

16:12-13a

 

16:14,15

 

We are not told why the Holy Spirit could not come to live in believers until Christ had returned to the Father, but it is quite clear that Christ’s return to the Father must occur before the Holy Spirit would come. The necessity for this delay is embedded deep in the nature of the Triune God.

What do these texts say about the timing of the Spirit’s coming to live in believers, and the reason for that timing?

7:38,39

14:28

16:7b

 

C. THE WORK OF THE INDWELLING SPIRIT

C.1 The indwelling Holy Spirit is the Prosecutor of the world

The Scripture teaches that God is the Judge of all the earth [Genesis 18:25 ], and that God has delegated the authority to judge to Jesus Christ [John 5:22 ], who, when he returns, comes as judge [Jude 14-15]. But the Scripture also teaches us that the Holy Spirit is involved in the judgment process, that he convicts the world of guilt.

Jesus said:

John 16:7-11: ‘…I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, … and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.’

Here we see that the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world is exactly the opposite of his action in the believer:

To the believer, he is the ‘Counsellor’ [14:16; 15:26] – the legal helper who befriends us and by teaching us of Christ assists and encourages us to rest in our acquittal from all guilt by the substitutionary, sin-bearing death of Christ. The Holy Spirit is, in this way, our legal defence.

To ‘the world’ , and this is the only scripture where the Holy Spirit’s specific activity towards the unbeliever is detailed, the Holy Spirit has the role of the legal prosecutor.

[Note on the word ‘convict’: The Greek elencho means: put to proof, test, convict, expose, to cross-examine for the purpose of convincing or refuting an opponent, reprove, rebuke.]

While the Holy Spirit advocates for the believer, in relation to the world he is the legal prosecutor: he convicts the world of guilt from three perspectives: from the perspective of sin; from the perspective of righteousness; and from the perspective of judgment.

Conviction of guilt ‘…in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me’:

We who believe in Christ never again bear the guilt of our sin: Christ bore it for us; it was nailed to his cross, and he took the full penalty there [Colossians 2:14 ; 1Peter 2:24 ]. Those who do not believe in Christ still carry the guilt of their sin [John 8:24 ]. They stand ‘guilty’ in the presence of God so long as they do not believe in Christ. The Holy Spirit exposes and identifies this guilt. Indeed, unless the Holy Spirit convicts them of this guilt in respect to the core sin of unbelief, they will never come to genuine faith and repentance.

Leon Morris comments: ‘The basic sin is the sin which puts self at the centre of things and consequently refuses to believe. This is the world’s characteristic sin and it received classic expression when God sent His Son into the world and the world refused to believe in Him. The world is guilty, but it requires the Spirit to sheet this home. The Spirit convicts the world in two senses. In the first place He shows the world to be guilty, that is He secures a verdict of ‘Guilty’ against the world. But in the second place we should take the words to mean also that the Spirit brings the world’s guilt home to itself. The Spirit convicts the individual sinner’s conscience. Otherwise men would never be convicted of their sin.’ [p.698].

Conviction of guilt ‘… in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer’

We who believe in Christ never again have to bear the guilt of our own legal disqualification [lack of righteousness] in the presence of God: we have been clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ [Romans 3:21 -24; Philippians 3:7-0]. The return of Christ to the Father, after his death and resurrection, affirms his perfect righteousness, and exposes the sheer inadequacy of all human attempts to secure their own righteousness. By Christ’s righteousness all of our righteousness is exposed as filthy rags. It is the Holy Spirit alone who convinces/convicts the world that by its own ‘righteousness’ it can only be declared ‘guilty’, never ‘acquitted’, and thus drive them to accept the free gift of the righteousness of Christ.

The righteousness which is shown by Christ’s going to the Father is surely that righteousness which is established by the Christ. It is precisely this righteousness which requires the work of the Holy Spirit for men to be convinced about it. The Spirit shows men (and no one else can do this) that their righteousness before God depends not on their own efforts but on Christ’s atoning work for them.’ Leon Morris, p.698]).

Conviction of guilt ‘… in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world stands condemned.’

We who believe in Christ never have to bear the just judgment of God: in Christ we have been removed forever from the realm of condemnation [John 5:24 ; 8:1]. The Holy Spirit convicts the world that it is guilty, and therefore under the judgment of God. This is evident in the defeat of Satan in and by the cross of Christ, by which all of Satan’s lies and deceptions are exposed. God is proved to be God, and Satan and his agenda stand condemned by the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The world, which aligns with Satan, is also thus condemned. This truth is made known to the world by the Holy Spirit.

The work of judgement is referred to the defeat of Satan on the cross. ... The defeat of Satan is not an arbitrary feat of power, but a judgment. Justice is done in the overthrow of the evil one. It should not be overlooked that all three aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit dealt with in these verses are interpreted Christologically. Sin, righteousness and judgement are all to be understood because of the way they relate to the Christ.’ [Morris, p.699].

An important point to recognize here is that it is when the Holy Spirit comes to the believer [verse 7,8a] that he convicts the world of guilt in these three areas. It is through the testimony and message of Christ proclaimed by the church that the Holy Spirit does this work. And it is as a result of this convicting work of the Spirit through the testimony of the church that people who belong to the world can be rescued from the world and brought into the kingdom of Christ .

Notice also, Jesus has just been teaching of the world’s hatred and persecution directed towards him and his followers. Here we see that world accused and found guilty by the Spirit-empowered and Spirit-informed testimony of the very people the world is seeking to destroy.

C.2 The indwelling Holy Spirit as the believers’ Teacher

What does Jesus say about the Holy Spirit as a Teacher?

14:17; 15:26; 16:13

14:20

14:26

15:26

16:12,13

 

 

 

 

16:14

16:15

What the Holy Spirit teaches us includes:

      • ‘all things’ [ 14:26 ]
      • Everything Jesus taught the disciples [ 14:26 ]
      • Teaching about Jesus [ 15:26 ]
      • Teaching that was more than the disciples could ‘bear’ when he was still with them’ [ 16:12 ]
      • ‘all truth’ [ 16:13 ]
      • Only what he hears [ 16:13 ]
      • What is yet to come [ 16:13 ]
      • Teaching that belongs to and appertains to Christ [ 16:14 ]
      • All that belongs to the Father [ 16:15 ,16]

There is nothing left out. The indwelling Holy Spirit teaches the believer all that we need to know. Note that this truth doesn’t come from the Spirit independently of the Father and the Son: he takes what is Christ’s, which is actually also the Father’s, and makes this known to believers. He brings to our minds, and helps us understand, the teaching that Christ has already given to his disciples, which they recorded in the New Testament. In addition, he guided these disciples into truth that Christ did not teach during his incarnation, because, at that point, before his death and resurrection, they were not able to bear it. That truth is also recorded as the New Testament, and it is the indwelling Spirit who enables us to understand it. The purpose of all of this is to bring glory to Christ [ 16:14 ].

 

D. THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE TRINITY

In this section of John’s Gospel Jesus makes several statements about the coming of the Holy Spirit which help us to understand the Trinity and the role of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity, and help us to realise that though Jesus no longer stands before us in flesh and blood, he is still present, he is still here, living within each believer individually and in the church corporately.

The Bible assumes that the Holy Spirit shares with God the Father and God the Son in eternal, personal deity. He, along with the Father and the Son, is God - one of the three persons in the three-persons-in-one-God whom the Christian church describes as a ‘trinity’: one God, existing as three distinct persons, all equally God, all equally eternal, all equally present and active at the same time.

Note: We need to be aware here that there is a belief with some churches and some cults that God is only one divine person, who shows himself as either the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit at any given point of time.

But the Bible outlaws any such unitarian concept of God. We are not permitted to understand Father, Son and Spirit as three alternate modes or manifestations or expressions of God. Rather, God is all three – Father, Son and Spirit – at the same time. The biblical concept is that at any given point in time God is all three, that God exists in a permanent, eternal, trinity. Father, Son and Spirit each eternally present, each eternally existing in relationship with the other.

Think carefully about what these verses say. In what way do they reveal the existence of Father, Son and Spirit as three distinct divine persons?

Matthew 3:16-17

Matthew 28:19

John 14:16,17

Acts 5:3-4

Romans 8:16-17

Romans 15:30

2Corinthians 1:21 -22

1Peter 1:2

These verses obviously understand that there is a distinction between Father, Son and Spirit. All are equally and fully God, but each has a distinct individual identity.

But, as with the Father and the Son, so here with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is both this clear distinction, and also an essential unity. This essential unity is obvious in what Jesus said when he promised to send the Spirit to his disciples when he returned to the Father:

John 14:16-18: ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him… I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.’

John 14:21: ‘He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.’

John 14:23: ‘… we will come to him and make our home with him.’

John 16:7: ‘It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.’

John 16:16: ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’ [This verse may be a reference to his resurrection appearances, not to the Holy Spirit.]

In these verses:

      • We see that both the Father and the Son send the Spirit to us.
      • We also discover that the coming of the Spirit to dwell in us is also the Father and the Son coming to dwell in us.
      • In the coming of the Spirit, the Father himself comes.
      • In the coming of the Spirit, Jesus, the Son, comes to dwell in us.

To have one is to also have the other two.

Thus we have within the Trinity:

      • Distinction of persons, but not difference of nature, essence or character.
      • Unity of purpose, will, action, but not fusion or merging or loss of individual identity.
      • Equality of deity in all of the aspects of deity, including, for example, eternality [Hebrews 9:14 ], omniscience [1Corinthians 2:10 ] and omnipresence [Psalm 139:7]

In affirming the presence of the Holy Spirit in terms of the Father’s presence and his own presence, Jesus is giving great assurance to his troubled disciples. Yes. He himself is going away. But, because of the equality and unity he shares with the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Spirit is the presence of Jesus. Just as seeing Jesus is seeing the Father, even so being indwelt by the Spirit is being indwelt by Jesus, the Son. In the coming of the Spirit, Jesus comes back to them.

 

E. THE DISCIPLES’ RESPONSE AND JESUS’ FINAL TEACHING - JOHN 16:17-33

The disciples’ first reaction to Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit is perplexity [ 16:17 -19]. They haven’t got any idea at all what he is talking about. They are so distracted by his words ‘in a little while’ that they don’t seem to have taken much notice at all of his assuring words about the Holy Spirit. In response to their confusion Jesus gives them more teaching about the events that are about to happen, but he is still not specific about the details of his death.

E.1 Their immanent grief

How does Jesus describe their immanent grief in 16:20 -22?

 

 

 

 

What is the cause of this grief?

 

 

 

E.2 Their subsequent joy

Read 16:20 -24. What are the causes of the disciples’ subsequent joy?

 

 

 

Which of these elements of joy are also applicable to us as believers today?

 

 

 

E.3 More teaching about prayer

For the fourth time in these final hours with the disciples Jesus teaches them about prayer. [To review the previous times go to Section D in Study 20, and read the comments on 15:7.] This time he adds further information:

After the Holy Spirit comes, which is after the resurrection of Christ and his return to the Father, they will make their requests to the one whom Jesus calls ‘my Father’, no longer to Jesus [16:23]. While Jesus was on earth they made their requests to him; he was God right there with them, obviously able to give them the physical help or the spiritual guidance and instruction they needed. Available. Loving them. Full of compassion. Easy to relate to.

Now he tells them that they will pray to his Father, and his Father will give them whatever they ask in his name. He further explains that when they ask the Father, in his name, the Father responds to them personally. It is not that the Father responds because Jesus asks the Father on their behalf [ 16:26 ], but that the Father responds to their request, without the verbal intercession of the Son.

And here we understand more fully the significance of prayer made “in Jesus’ name”. When we approach the Father ‘in Jesus name’, we are coming to the Father in full acknowledgement of and dependence upon Jesus Christ. We are not coming in our own name, depending on our own perceived righteousness to give us right of access. We come, acknowledging that our only right of access into the Father’s presence is Jesus Christ and his righteousness which is credited to all who believe in him.

The Father responds to those who come to him in the name of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus states, the Father himself loves you [ 16:27 ]. It is not just Jesus, the Son, who loves them. The Father also loves them. For this reason he responds to their prayers.

Jesus is not saying here that it is wrong to pray to him, rather than the Father. He is saying that we don’t have to be afraid to pray to the Father, because the Father himself loves us. The Father is not inapproachable: he loves us.

Reflection: What have you learned about prayer from this passage in John 16?

 

 

 

 

E.4 Assurance of the Father’s love

The disciples knew that Jesus loved them. Now, as we have just seen, he assures them that the Father himself also loves them. The Father loves them so certainly that Jesus tells them they have immediate access to the Father when they approach him in the name of Jesus.

Read John 16:27 . Why does the Father love you? What confidence does this give you in your relationship with God?

 

 

 

A serious question; In John 16:26,27 Jesus has made a very clear statement about the uninhibited access the believer has to the Father. In the light of what he says here, what must be concluded about the concept that Jesus Christ stands in the presence of the Father constantly pleading with the Father to be gracious to us? Is it not rather the case that Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, with the blood of his eternal sacrifice, entered the presence of God and our permanent and eternal acceptance once-and-for-all? That his presence at the right hand of God is the guarantee of our access?

 

 

 

 

E.5 Jesus’ origin

From time to time throughout this Gospel Jesus has referred to his origin: he came from heaven, he came from the Father, he is from above, he does not belong to this world. Now he tells his disciples he is going back to where he came from: he came from God, he is going back to God [16:27b,28].

At last the disciples understand, or think they understand, what Jesus means by his references to going away: he is going back to where he came from [29,30]. Jesus is relieved that at last they believe that he has indeed come from God [31], but dispels any reason for relief on their part [32].

E.6 Peace in the midst of trouble

The disciples’ confident statement in verse 30 will soon be put to the test. Despite this statement of faith, Jesus says,

      • They are about to be scattered
      • They will leave him all alone
      • They will have trouble in this world

Yet, despite all of this, Jesus says: ‘I have told you these things [that is, chapters 14 t0 16] so that in me you may have peace’ [33]. Note the key phrase ‘in me’. To be a Christian does not mean the absence of trouble, it does not mean peaceful circumstances or peaceful relationships. The peace that Jesus’ promises so confidently is in him. It has its source in him. It is sustained in him. It has its security in him. It is totally dependent on him. In the context of the non-peace of the world, those who believe in Jesus, have peace in him. For he has overcome the world [33]. Therefore, he says, ‘take heart!’

Here in this final encouragement Jesus goes right back to the starting point of this final teaching session with his disciples:

‘Do no let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me’ [14:1]. For he has overcome the world [33]. therefore,those who believe in Jesus,

In these three chapters [14-16] Jesus has taught them several things to support them through the coming dramas:

      • The certainty that they will be with him [14:1-4]
      • His divine identity [14:6-14; 16:28 ]
      • The assurance that prayer in his name will be answered [ 14:13 -14; 15:7,8,16; 16:23 ,24,26]
      • The promise of the indwelling Spirit [ 14:15 -31; 15:26 ; 16:5-16]
      • The nature of the essential love they must have for him and for each other [ 14:15 ; 15:9-17]
      • Their utter dependence on him for spiritual life [14:6; 15:1-6]

And now he says: I have told you all of this so that you may have peace, even in the midst of the traumas and tragedies of this life, just as he had previously said:

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid’ [ 14:27 ].

The world at best gives only temporary, superficial and uncertain peace; at worst, it gives trouble. In this world, we, the followers of Christ, will have trouble. But let us take heart, for he has overcome the world.