The Holy Spirit
John 14: 15-2
Today we get to the declaration, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” or “I believe in the Holy Ghost,” the older version of the Apostles’ Creed.
When it comes to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, without a doubt, the Holy Spirit is the most mysterious of the three, the one person we know the least about. If you’re going to learn about the Holy Spirit, there’s no better place in the Bible to go than right here in John 14. To put it a little differently, John 14–17 is Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse the night before he’s going to die, his last night on earth, the last time he has to teach his disciples.
By the way, when you know you’re speaking to people you love and you’ll never speak to them again, you don’t talk about the weather. You go to the subjects you think are the most crucial for them, maybe the most crucial to you. It’s interesting that almost the last words of Jesus to his disciples are filled with teaching about the Holy Spirit, which shows how important it is.
So let’s look at what we’re taught about the Holy Spirit in this section, and let’s look at it under three headings:
Who the Spirit is,
What the Spirit does, and
How to receive what the Spirit gives.
WHO THE SPIRIT IS
Jesus gives us three clues.
The first clue is in verse 17, where he says, “even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
The Holy Spirit is referred to as a person. Not a force, not a nebulous power, not as it, but as him, a person. So the Holy Spirit is a person.
The second clue is when he says in verse 16, “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever”.
We’ll get to the word helper or advocate in a moment (it’s very important), but right now let’s take a look at the word another.
In Greek, there are two words that can be translated into another, and one of the Greek words means another unlike and the other means another like, exactly like. Jesus uses the second of those two words here, which is his way of saying, since he claims to be God … Since Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” since Jesus has already said in John 8, “Before Abraham was, I am,” Jesus is saying, “The Holy Spirit is not only a person but an equally infinitely divine person with me and the Father.”
The third clue is in verse 18 he says, ““I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” That’s actually the theme of the entire three or four chapters. He constantly says, “I’m leaving you.” In fact, chapter 14 begins with him saying, “I go away. I’m leaving you, and I’m going to prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house there are many rooms.” So the theme is, “I’m leaving you.” Then look at verse 18. He says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
Then if you go down to verse 23, it says, “and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him..” So on the one hand, Jesus is saying, “I’m leaving you.” On the other hand, he’s saying, “I’m leaving. The Holy Spirit is coming, and when the Holy Spirit comes, I will be coming and my Father will be coming.”
Welcome to the unique and wonderful doctrine of the Trinity.
This is the teaching of the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not three gods. They’re one. They’re one God but they’re distinct. There’s not one God and one person, not three gods and three persons. There’s one God in three persons.
In one sense, Jesus can leave and the Holy Spirit can come, but in another sense, since they are so one, when you get the one you get them all.
Do you know what this means? To be filled with the Spirit is largely to walk around aware of what you have, who you have, who’s right there.
2. WHAT THE SPIRIT DOES
When it comes to this subject, I almost hate to have only one passage of the Scripture to talk about, because what the Bible tells us about what the Spirit does is so multidimensional. There are so many things he does. In verse 16.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever
The Holy Spirit is with you forever. Let me just point out two things. By the way, that’s a plural you person. He doesn’t just say you individually.
What he’s actually saying is when the Holy Spirit comes into your life, he doesn’t just bind you and unite you to Christ, but he unites you to everyone else united to Christ. If the Holy Spirit brings you into a new family and you get a new father, that means you automatically get new brothers and sisters. We’re going to look at this next week, so I won’t even say any more than this this week.
The Holy Spirit puts you into community, and that doesn’t just mean, “Oh, now we have fellowship.” It means every other Christian on the face of the earth … No matter how different their culture, no matter how different their race, no matter how different their temperament, you now have a spiritual bond of infinite depth, because that bond is the Holy Spirit himself.
The Holy Spirit gives you community. It gives you an eternal bond not only with one another but with the Lord himself.
But the two things that are emphasized, which we have to look at, are these: the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of truth and he’s the ultimate friend.
First, the Spirit of truth. Verse 17 calls him a Spirit of truth. That’s a really important term. We’d better be careful with the idea of the Holy Spirit against the Bible and say,
“Well, you have all your doctrine and you have all your truth and all that stuff, but I have the Holy Spirit. I have experience.”
He is the Spirit of truth. If you look down at verses 25–26, you’ll see a two-layer promise.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
In other words, Jesus Christ has been teaching them for several years, and he’s going to teach them after his resurrection as well, and he says, “The Holy Spirit will enable you to remember the things I’m telling you, so that when you and your colleagues write it down in the New Testament it will be the truth.”
For us now, when you read the Bible with the Holy Spirit’s help, you don’t just find the truth makes sense to your mind. God becomes real to your heart. When you’re wrestling with the commands and the truths of God in the Bible, the Holy Spirit actually brings God to you.
That’s the first aspect of what the Spirit does. He makes the truth make sense to your mind. He’s the Spirit of truth.
However, he’s also the ultimate friend. The reason I call him an ultimate friend is this. In some ways, the most important word in the passage to tell us about the Holy Spirit is, “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper.” Then down at the bottom he says, “26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name”
If you look at four or five different Bible translations, they’ll all have a different word there.
Some translations will call him the Advocate,
some will call him the Helper,
some will call him the Comforter,
some will call him the Counselor, and those are just the top four.
Whenever you see that all of the translations render a word in a different way, what you know you have is a word that’s so rich no one English word can convey the fullness of the meaning of it.
Even though I’m quite happy with Advocate, nevertheless, the fact is that none of these English words suffice.
Advocate is a little too hard.
Comforter is a little too soft.
Helper is a little too weak.
Even the Counselor is a little too detached. You know, the professional counselor or the consultant.
They may help you very much, but then you go home and he or she goes home, that sort of thing.
Here’s my translation. He’s the ultimate friend. I’ll tell you why. The Greek word is parakletos, someone who “parakleos” you. Para is a word that means be alongside, someone who is alongside of you. The image in ancient times of someone alongside of you meant someone always with you and always for you. You don’t see him one hour a week. Never goes home. Always with you, but always for you.
The word kaleo actually means to declare or to argue. That’s the reason none of these words quite get across like I think the term ultimate friend, and here’s why I would say ultimate friend. A friend, a true friend, a real friend … By the way, this is a better friend than any friends you have, even if you think you have some good friends. No one has a friend like this.
First of all, a real friend is willing to be with you, never leaves you, and is always for you, but is willing to argue with you.
There are two things the Spirit is going to constantly argue with you about, like any good friend will.
On the one hand, the Spirit will tell you you’re a sinner.
John, chapter 16, verse 8, says the Holy Spirit comes into the world to convict of sin. One of the things a friend will tell you is where you are being blind to your own sinfulness, your own responsibility, your own weakness. The Spirit has to come and argue with you against that blindness.
It has to say, “Look. You are a sinner here. You have done wrong. You need to take responsibility,” or “Look. You are weak. You need God. You are overconfident.” A good friend will come and tell you that, break through that.
The other thing the Holy Spirit has to do is bear witness that you’re a child of God.
It’s the Holy Spirit that comes in and says, “You will not understand how loved and accepted you are. You’re trying to earn it. You’re trying to achieve it. You’re trying to get it”.
It says in Philippians, chapter 1, verse 6, “The good work that God began in you he will bring to completion in the day of Jesus Christ.” The reason Paul can say to all Christians, “The good work God began in you he will bring to completion in the day of Christ” is because he knows you have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will never just let you stay the way you are. He will never leave you alone. He will never do that.
He will sanctify you. He will make you all that God wants you to be, because he’s always with you and he’s always for you. He’ll be telling you things that are too bad for your heart to believe, but he’s going to show you that they’re true, and also things that your heart finds too good to believe, and he’s going to show you that they’re true, because he’s the ultimate friend. Isn’t that wonderful?
3. HOW TO RECEIVE WHAT THE SPIRIT GIVES
How can you be sure that you are going to receive all the things the Spirit gives? The community he gives you, the illumination he gives you, the experience he gives you, but most of all, the ministry of the Holy Spirit as a friend inside your heart. Do you know how you can receive it? You have to do two things, according to this text.
If you want the ministry of the second Helper or Advocate, another Helpter or Advocate, in your life, you have to believe in the ministry of the first Advocate. You have to believe, and you have to obey. You have to believe in the first Advocate, and you have to obey. Only then will the Holy Spirit, as your second Advocate, do the ministry we’ve been describing. You say, “How does that work?” Well, here’s how it works.
First of all, because he’s another Advocate, that means his job is to basically tell you about the work of the first Advocate, who’s Jesus Christ.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
That’s how the Advocate does it. That’s how he is your friend. He’s pointing to the work of the first Advocate.
You believe in the work of the first Advocate, and the second Advocate will do his work. You believe in the infallible case that Jesus Christ, the first Advocate, is making, and when the Holy Spirit comes and talks to you about it, he’ll give you the infallible peace that comes from the infallible case.
Lastly, you have to obey. Why do I say that? Do you know how often in the Bible it says, “Don’t quench the Spirit”? It’s all through here. “If you obey me, I will be real to you. If you obey me, I will come to you. If you obey me …” I think here’s the reason why. Look at the work of the first Advocate. Jesus Christ gives up his glory and goes to the cross. How selfless. How unselfish. Look at the work of the second Advocate. The work of the second Advocate is to point to Jesus, not to himself.
The Holy Spirit does not come in and say, “Let me tell you about myself.” No, no. The second Advocate’s work is to point to Jesus, to glorify Jesus, to show how beautiful Jesus is.
Do you see the glory of the divine selflessness?
Do you see the Father emptying heaven of his greatest treasure to send to earth to save us?
Do you see Jesus Christ emptying himself of his glory?
Do you see the Holy Spirit pointing away from himself to Jesus?
Do you see the magnificence of the divine selflessness?
Do you want to have the Holy Spirit in your life? Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Stop your self-assertion. Stop your self-indulgence. Stop your self-centeredness. Obey him. Serve God. Serve your neighbor. Then you will find the ministry of the ultimate friend flooding your life, and you will know the glory and the joy of having this one for your ultimate friend.