Lecture 37: The Holy Spirit
Course: 52 Major Stories of the Bible
Lecture: The Holy Spirit
In John 14-17 we read about Jesus’ last private time with his disciples before he dies. We call it the “Upper Room Discourse.” Jesus talks about a lot of different things during these chapters, but I will here focus in on is Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit. He mentions the Holy Spirit four times, and we will look at three of those passages this morning. As you recall, several weeks ago we talked about the Trinity and how we are monotheists. We believe that there is one and only one God. Yet we also believe that God is a triune God, that there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Godhead is fully God, distinct from the other two but all three are one: the mystery of the Trinity.This morning I will focus on the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and see what Jesus teaches us about it in the “Upper Room Discourse.”
Paraclete - John 14:16-17
The first of the passages is in John 14:16-17. Jesus is setting the stage by telling the disciples that he will be leaving them very soon. In 14:2 Jesus says, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” That establishes the context then for the in-between time, between the time that Jesus leaves and when He comes back again. That is what verses 16 and 17 are about. Jesus says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 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 word translated here as “Helper” is a notoriously difficult word to translate. If you look at the other translations you’ll see words such as: advocate or counselor.
Sometimes when we talk about this passage we just give up with translating and take the Greek word directly into English and say, “Well, this is the Paraclete” and all different translations for this word. All of which refer to the Holy Spirit. The word “paraclete” has two basic meanings, which is one reason it is so difficult to translate. We do no have an English word for the same two meanings. The word “paraclete” refers to a friend, but a friend who within the context of a law court is arguing in your defense. So our paraclete is our friend, but he is our friend who comes to our aid during the legal court times, so to speak, and he argues in our defense. In other words, the paraclete, the Holy Spirit, the third member of the God, God himself, is on our side. And he will fight for you and he will fight for me in the challenges of life; that is the Holy Spirit. Notice that Jesus says he will send “another” comforter, another helper. While Jesus was on earth, he was the paraclete for his disciples. He was their helper. He was their advocate. He was their friend. Yet he has to leave, and after he goes, the Holy Spirit will come and continue to do the same thing that Jesus had been doing for the last 3 1/2 years. The only real difference is that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever. He will never, ever leave us like Jesus had to leave us. As real as the Holy Spirit is to the disciples of Jesus Christ, as real as he is to those who are not his disciples, they are simply incapable of hearing. They are incapable of even recognizing the Holy Spirit. Did you see that? The world cannot receive the Spirit because the world neither sees him nor knows him. As real as the power of God in your life and mine, if you are a disciple, as real as that is, the world is still incapable of knowing him. See, I cannot convince a non-believer of the reality of the Holy Spirit. Neither can you. It does not matter how long you argue. It does not matter how many classes on Apologetics you take. It does not matter how many personal testimonies you give. No amount of arguing is going to make a non-Christian, a citizen of this world, come to recognize the reality of God’s Spirit. It cannot happen. They just will not get it. This is why Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. And that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” There two different realities and you cannot naturally propel someone from the world of flesh, the natural person, to the realm of the Spirit, the spirit empowered person. You cannot do it. They will never get it. That is why Paul says to the Corinthians, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, [this is your co-worker, this is your neighbor, this is perhaps someone in your own family. But if they’ve only been born of the flesh, if they’re a natural person, they will not accept the things of the Spirit of God] for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them [the things of the Spirit] because they are spiritually discerned.” (I Corinthians 2:14) The world, in and of itself, is incapable of recognizing the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that amazing? Yet without coming to know the Holy Spirit, our co-workers, neighbors and loved ones will never find forgiveness and joy without the Holy Spirit. This is again the argument that Jesus is having with Nicodemus. He says that you have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God. And this man who was of the earth said, “What? Born again, what does that mean?” Jesus says, "unless you are born of the water and Spirit, you cannot even see, you cannot enter the kingdom of God." Moving from one realm to the next is not something you and I can do, or our neighbors can do on their own.
Then Jesus ends this paragraph with a wonderful promise. Did you see that? “You know him, for he dwells with you and he will be in you.” What a marvelous promise to all disciples. The Holy Spirit has been active. It has been active since creation and before. It was probably the Holy Spirit who was hovering over the face of the water in Genesis 1. The Holy Spirit has been in the midst of the nation Israel. He has been in the midst of the disciples the last three and half years. But Jesus says that is going to change someday. And someday He will be in you, not just with you, but He will indwell you. That is the term we use in Theology: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Just 40 days after Jesus says this at Pentecost, Acts 2, this is exactly what happens, isn’t it? That the Holy Spirit comes in a way that he’d never come before; to permanently indwell all disciples of Jesus Christ permanently, forever. It’s a promise that the disciples looked forward to. So the first passage in John 14 is the promise that after Jesus goes he will send another paraclete, another helper, another advocate. Yet as real as that advocate is to you and to me the world simply is not capable, in and of itself, to know him. But we still have the promise that someday he will be in us.
Spirit Will Teach “all things” - John 14:25-26
The second passage then is chapter 14 starting at verse 25 and Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But he 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.” Part of the work of the indwelling Spirit is to teach you and me, who are disciples, to teach us all things. All things, obviously, that is required to love God and to keep his commandments. I have not yet figured out nuclear fission. So that is not was Jesus is talking about. Everything we need to know to love him and to obey him.
Sometimes speaks quietly
Sometimes the Spirit teaches us by whispering to us very quietly. I think this is a normal way in which the Spirit teaches when he speaks directly to us. He whispers to us, “Turn off the movie. It’s not pleasing. It’s not edifying. It doesn’t glorify Me. It’s feeding your sin. Turn the movie off.” Sometimes, perhaps, he whispers in our ear, “Don’t talk like that. Don’t say things that are critical. Don’t say things that are judgmental. I don’t care if you think you’re right.” Let me say it louder, “I don’t care if you think you’re right. I’ve told you only to say that which extends grace, that which will edify and that which will build up. Don’t talk like that. Don’t drag the other person down.” Sometimes that is how the Spirit teaches us, as he whispers in our ears. The question of course is, when he is whispering, are we listening? Or do we turn up the volume on the TV, or do we just speak louder and drown them out? Do we listen to the whisper and then do we quickly obey the whisper? Sometimes the indwelling Spirit in his desire to teach us all things whispers and he asks us to listen to the whisper.
Sometimes he shouts
But there are other times that he gets tired of whispering and he shouts, and he beats us over the head with a 2x4 and then gets our attention. Then he says, “Now will you listen to me?” Probably all of us have been beaten over the head with the Holy Spirit’s 2x4 once or twice. As he gets our attention, because he wants to teach us, he wants us to listen and he wants us to obey. We had the testimony up here about a year ago of a young man who God had been whispering in his ear for years. And he just drank more and drove faster. So one night in his grace, God hit him over the head with a 2x4. And it appears, miraculously, put his seatbelt on for him and then allowed him to drive into a car in which should have killed him and yet one in which he walked away unscathed. God got his attention. And the young man started listening and his life changed. Sometimes whispering does not work because we are not listening, so God teaches us by beating us over the head with a 2x4.
Speaks through Scripture
And yet there are other ways too in which God teaches us, and perhaps the most common and most useful is when he teaches us, when he speaks to us through Scripture. These are those times in which we sit down with the Bible, reading the very words of God, and something miraculous happens when we are reading. It is that we start to hear the authors speak. Instead of a one-way monologue of us reading the text, we move into an encounter with the author, an encounter with the Holy Spirit, an encounter with the very God. And it is in those moments that he is also teaching us and speaking to us. We call it “illumination” of Scripture. “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Part of the function of the indwelling Holy Spirit is to teach us. Sometimes he whispers quietly. Sometimes he beats us over the head. Sometimes he meets us in the very words of God. But all of these are supernatural events in which God’s Spirit is speaking to us.
Specifically for the Eleven Disciples
But Jesus adds one more comment on to the end of this discussion. My personal interpretation of it is that this does not apply to you and to me, but it applies to the disciples. You see it at the end, “…..he will teach you all things [that is for all disciples] and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” I think what Jesus is saying is that the Holy Spirit will help the eleven disciples (Judas is gone by this time) remember correctly what he had taught and done through the past 3 1/2 years. Hence it is not a promise that applies to me because, while I am quite old, I am not 2000 years old. Let me ask you the question this way, why do you believe the gospel writers got it right? I mean, 3 1/2 years have past and a lot of things have happened. Then even more years passed (10-20) before the gospels were written down, we do not know exactly. How do you know that when you pick up Mark and read, “You must deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me,” that Jesus actually said that? Well, there are a lot of apologetical arguments. There are lots of good intellectual arguments, which I am glad for. They are important to me. Arguments like the presence of eyewitnesses. Jesus did all this in a crowd and there were many people who heard of him and they were still alive when the gospels were written.
So if the gospel writers had written things that were wrong, the eye witnesses would have said, “Wait a minute, I was there and that is not what he said.” I am thankful for those kinds of arguments that help me understand what I have here actually happened. Ultimately, I am not going to trust my life to logical arguments. I do not have enough faith to believe in logic as the ultimate good because it is not. The reliability of Scripture is based on Jesus’ promise. The reliability of Scripture is based on Jesus’ character. The reliability of Scripture is based on the power of the third person of the Godhead to make sure that they got the gospel right, because he helped them remember everything Jesus said and taught and did for the past 3 1/2 years. That is why Peter talks about the authors of Scripture being moved by God as they wrote. I know that argument is not going to convince the non-Christian, but it is all that I need, along with the confirming work of the Holy Spirit, to believe that in fact the Holy Spirit did bring to remembrance all that Jesus said and did. And those things were faithfully written down in what we call the Bible. So the second passage, the second set of teaching that Jesus has on the Holy Spirit is that he is an indwelling Spirit. That he comes into our lives when he makes us new and he stays with us forever. And he teaches us, sometimes by a whisper, sometimes by 2x4’s, sometimes through Scripture, and you and I can believe this because God said that the Spirit will be active as it was written down.
Convict the World - John 16:4b-11 (-15)
The next passage I wanted to look at is John 16:4-15, but let me read just through verse 11, “I did not say these things to you from 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. [I am going away and you are sad and I understand that, Jesus says] Nevertheless, 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. When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Can you imagine being a disciple of Jesus Christ in the upper room within all the controversy and all the tension that has gone on the last week and then having Jesus tell you, “Oh by the way, I am going to leave you and it is to your advantage.” I can imagine what must have gone through their minds, “What are you talking about? Here I give up my job. I give up my career. I spend 3 1/2 years walking around this place listening to you, trying to figure out these parables and all these other things and you keep saying things that do not make any sense like you are going to die and that I am suppose to deny my myself.
Now it gets really hot and the religious leaders are really after you. They are out for blood and you say it is to my advantage that you are going away.” I can imagine that Jesus was looking at a few puzzled faces when he said that. Jesus was right when he said it is to our advantage that he go away, that he go to the cross, that he complete the work that he came to do and then leave. Because it is only after he has left that God the Holy Spirit is able to come and to do his part in the salvation of you and me. The Holy Spirit’s work is evidently predicated upon Jesus’ work; Jesus is part of a whole process. Although God the Father initially said we will save human beings, it was God the Son’s work to make it possible, to die on the cross and then after he had done that, then it was time for God the Holy Spirit to come and to infuse us with power, to give us new birth and to live with us forever. It really did work out to the disciples’ advantage. When the Holy Spirit came, he took a band of men who were petrified, who denied Jesus, who fled when he was arrested into one of the most powerful groups of people, if not the most powerful group of people that had ever existed on the face of the earth. When you go from the gospels to Acts you find yourself asking yourself, “What happened? Here’s Peter in the gospels and here’s Peter in Acts, what happened?” What happened was the Holy Spirit came and infused him with power. The Holy Spirit came and took a group of people who were petrified and turned them into the kind of people that we read in Acts 4. They have been brought before the religious and civil authorities, the Sanhedrin, they had been threatened to quit preaching about Jesus. In Acts 4:19, “But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, [In other words, I really don’t give a rip what you think] for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’” And they go out and pray for boldness and in verse 29 says, “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.” It was to the disciples’ advantage that Jesus goes, so the Holy Spirit could come and turn them into that kind of people. Jesus specifically states that it is to your advantage because the Holy Spirit needs to come so that he can “convict the world.” In other words, the Paraclete is not just our defense attorney but he is also God’s prosecuting attorney, and he is going to convict the world of three things.
Convict the World of Its Sin
First of all, He is going to convict the world of its sin. Sin because they do not believe. Please understand that this function of Holy Spirit is a gracious act. It is an act of untold grace that the Holy Spirit is going to come and to show people that they are not acceptable to God as things stand. When we do not tell people that they will die in their sins and go to hell apart from Christ, we are doing them no favor at all. That is not love, that is apathy, is it not? When we let them think that they can walk straight into the kingdom of God, that rebirth is not necessary we do them no favor. Yet it is an act of grace on both the Holy Spirit’s part and on our part to let people know exactly what is going on. The Holy Spirit’s work is a gracious work. I heard last night of the nephew of someone in this church who was 16 years old who committed suicide. I know that the people involved had been sharing the gospel and had been living the gospel. Just think if they had not been doing so.
Convicting the world of its sin is one of the greatest acts of grace on God’s part. Yet it is one of the necessary acts. We had noticed earlier, remember that the world on its own cannot respond to the gospel. They are blinded by their sin of unbelief. Therefore the Holy Spirit’s work of convicting the world of sin is a necessary act. No matter how hard you and I try, we cannot convict the world, we cannot convict our co-workers, our neighbors and even our family members. We cannot convict them of their sin. We cannot convict them of the reality of the Holy Spirit. It is not possible because that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of Spirit is Spirit. That is why back in John 6:44 Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Part of the work of the Spirit is that he extends his hands to people and he draws them to himself. That is the Holy Spirit’s job; It is not your nor my job. I know sometimes in evangelism we start thinking we are God. We start saying, “Why are you not responding to the gospel of Jesus Christ? I must not be arguing well enough. I must not be calling you enough. I must not be bugging you enough.” And we accept the responsibility that it is my job to change my nephew’s life. You know what, it is not. Is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of its sin. It is a supernatural act. I think that is one of the things that gets so defeating in evangelism, is that we think somehow it is our job to change them and it is not. That is the Holy Spirit’s job and we leave it to him. The other side of the coin is, how does the Holy Spirit do this? How does the Holy Spirit convict the world of sin? Sometimes he does work directly with the non-believer. This may be your experience in your life, where all of a sudden you realize that your conscience is being pricked more than it has ever been before, and you are starting to question more than you ever have before whether what you believe is true and whether how you live is the right way to live. That’s the Holy Spirit. That’s the third member of the Godhead at work in your life, drawing you to himself. And yet I think the primary way the Holy Spirit does this convicting work is through Jesus’ disciples. It is not our job to change them, but as you and I share and live out the gospel, as people hear it from our mouths and see it in our behavior, then the Holy Spirit is at work through that proclamation of the gospel; the gospel of sin and a forgiveness and of joy, and he pricks their conscience. He makes them question and he draws people to himself.
This is the A of the ABC’s I use so much. What does it take to become a disciple of Jesus Christ? It is as simple as ABC. A is to admit you are a sinner, to admit that you are separated from God, to admit that things are not as God created them to be. So as you and I share the ABC’s, as you and I say the words and live the life of the gospel, it is still the Holy Spirit’s job to drive the gospel home. I hope that frees you up for evangelism. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict the world of sin. Sometimes directly with the individual, usually, I think, through our lives and our words as we proclaim the gospel. If there is any of you here this morning who are seeking God, whose consciences are being pricked, who are starting to wonder, “Is there more to life than what I can see?” then you need to understand that you are feeling the powerful hand of the third member of God, of the Trinity. He is pulling you to himself. And the question is, will you respond? Will you respond? It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of sin.
Convict the world of righteousness
Secondly, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict the world of righteousness. And as Jesus continues, “Because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” In a negative sense, Jesus is saying that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to show the world that its so called righteousness is nothing but filthy rags, that there is no righteousness apart from Christ. Jesus had been telling them this for the last 3 1/2 years and now that He is leaving, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to pick that up and to let the world know that it has no righteousness of its own. Positively stated, the function of the Holy Spirit is to show the world, our co-workers, our friends and our loved ones that there is righteousness available. It is possible to be right with God. But it is only possible through Christ’s work on the cross. And Jesus is going now. He is going home to be with his Father. He is going to have accomplished the work for which he was sent. He will die on the cross. He will provide the sacrifice for our forgiveness and open access to God through his death on the cross.
Now it is the role of the Holy Spirit to teach, to illumine, and to help people understand that there is righteousness available. It is not through what you and I can do on our own human effort, because that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit, and righteousness only exists in the realm of the Spirit. And that’s now the Holy Spirit’s job. How does the Holy Spirit do this? How does the Holy Spirit go about convicting the world of righteousness, its lack of righteousness and the availability of righteousness through Jesus’ death on the cross? He does it primarily through you and me, as we bare witness about Jesus. The passage that I skipped about the Holy Spirit, John 15:26-27, makings this point. After Jesus leaves it is the Holy Spirit’s job to bare witness and it bares witness through what you and I say and do not say. He bares witness through what you and I do and do not do.
This is the B of the ABC’s, to believe that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for sins. To believe with all our hearts that He who knew no sin was made to be sin [Jesus on the cross] so that you and I could be made the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is how Jesus convicts the world of unrighteousness, as you and I share and live out the gospel we are proclaiming the lack of the world’s righteousness. We are proclaiming that there is righteousness available through Jesus’ death on the cross, gained by faith. The Holy Spirit comes in all his graciousness to convict the world of sin; in all His graciousness He convicts the world of their lack of righteousness and the availability of Christ’s righteousness.
Convict the World of Judgment
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of judgment. Namely to let the world know that Satan and all those who belong to him stand condemned. That on the cross, Satan’s judgment and Satan’s destiny were finalized, were written in concrete. And included with Satan’s judgment are all of his children, all of those who do not believe in Jesus. In a hard hitting passage in John 8:43-44, Jesus makes it very clear that if you are not one of his disciples then your father is Satan and you will suffer the same judgment that Satan will suffer, which is being thrown into the lake of fire. How does the Holy Spirit convict the world of judgment? Primarily through Jesus’ disciples, as you and I share and live out the gospel. As you and I share the gospel, the gospel of sin, the gospel of righteousness and the gospel of joy the Holy Spirit is at work in our words and is at work in our lives. He is doing the hard work of convicting the world of its judgment. Does all this sound too hard? Do you feel overwhelmed when you see this kind of stuff and ask, “How can I do this?” “How can I convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. It is too much.” Do you feel that way? You should; it is way too much for us. On our own we will never be able to do it, and that is why He did not leave us or forsake us when God’s Spirit causes us to be born again. God’s Spirit continues to indwell each believer, and as God’s Spirit, the third member of the triune God, lives and works inside of us, He is empowering us so that we can walk by the Spirit, we can live by the Spirit, that he gives us the guidance. He keeps talking to us, he keeps instructing us and then he gives us the ability and the power to do what he has called us to do. Paul tells the Philippians, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who is at work in you, both giving you the desire to do it and then the ability to accomplish it.” It is too difficult on our own to do any of this and that is why God left his Spirit in us so that empowered by it we will walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5 starting in verse 16, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Walking by the Spirit, living by his power, living in conformity to his will. The Spirit empowers us, changes us and we start to develop the fruits of the Spirits, verses 22 and following, "that we become people of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." That is the function of the indwelling work of the Spirit in our lives. It is not something that we can just work harder at. It is something that the Holy Spirit wants to do in us and calls us to allow him to do. And then as indwelt, Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered disciples, we can recognize that the Holy Spirit is at work in us. He is our helper, He is our advocate, He is our friend, He is whispering to us, He is beating us over the head, and He is making this book come alive. And then as we come to understand and know him, as we start to live and share the gospel, then it is the Holy Spirit’s work to convict our neighbors, our co-workers and our dear family members. That which is born of the flesh is flesh and will die flesh. But through a supernatural working of God’s power, they too can be born again, become new creatures and enter the kingdom of God and understand a kind of joy and peace that this world cannot possibly understand because we do not try to earn righteousness, we were given Christ’s righteousness. We are right with God and we have access into heaven where God the Father is.
That is the ABC’s: admitting our sin, believing in Christ’s righteousness, not our own and becoming children of God and turning our lives over to him. May you go out of here encouraged. Not like, “Ahh, there’s a whole bunch of more stuff I have to do.” But may you go out of here understanding that it is the third member of the Godhead whose going to do his work through you. He will give you the desire and then he will give you the ability to do it. And all that you have to do is be faithful.
“When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
- Do you think of the Holy Spirit as God, as equal in essence and perfection with the Father and the Son? Or do you think of him as an impersonal force? How can we change this?
- How does it help you deal with the issues of life knowing that the Holy Spirit is on your side, fighting for you, and will never leave?
- How does it free you up knowing that it is not your job to convict the world of sin? In what ways do we try to do the Holy Spirit’s job?
- When has the Holy Spirit whispered to you? Were you listening? Did you obey?
- When has the Holy Spirit hit you over the head? Were you listening? Did you obey?
- Share how you have seen the Holy Spirit convict someone of their sin.
- Share how you have seen the Holy Spirit convict someone of their need for Christ’ righteousness.