Please read the following verses from John’s gospel; John 14: 15-21, 25-27, John 15: 26 – 16:16.
Pray: Almighty God, I bow in your presence. May your Word be my rule and your Spirit my teacher and guide, to the glory and praise of your name. Amen
A question. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? A second question. Do you know the Holy Spirit? A third question? Does the Holy Spirit live within you? If you cannot answer “yes” to those questions, it will be impossible for you to understand Jesus (and Christianity), live for Jesus (practice Christianity) and enjoy Jesus (and the Christian faith). Without the Holy Spirit, Jesus cannot be real to you or related to you. There can be no real, living, growing, dynamic relationship with Jesus without the Holy Spirit.
This is the teaching that lies at the heart of the final messages of Jesus to his disciples before his death. John chapters 14-17 is an amazing, unparalleled section of the NT. In these 4 chapters, John records Jesus farewell discourse with his disciples. This is the concentrated piece of teaching and instruction Jesus shared with the 12 just before he gave up his life for them and for the world on the cross. There is a lot of emphasis on Jesus “going away”, “leaving them” and “returning to his Father.” These 4 chapters contain words from Jesus and not much else. I can illustrate this by showing you a bible where Jesus’s words are printed in red ink. Almost all the words in these chapters are in red ink. They are words spoken by Jesus to the 12 as he prepares to face suffering and death.
John, the beloved disciple, decided that his gospel would include these words and this teaching from Jesus. John sees all of it as important, even vital – and so must we. The main teaching that Jesus gives to his disciples at this final point in his life begins with the firm promise of a place in his Father’s eternal house/home (14:2) and this is followed by another of the great “I am” sayings;
I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
There are then four things that Jesus particularly stresses to his disciples on this final evening with them.
- The need to know about the coming of the Holy Spirit after he has left them.
- The need to love each other and obey all Jesus’ commands, one of which is to love one another wholeheartedly. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:17)
- The need to “abide” in Jesus and his word. As live branches they must stay connected to the main vine. (John 15: 1-8). They must remain in Jesus, his word and his love.
- The need to understand that the world will hate them and persecute them, for this is how the world has reacted to Jesus himself who is their Master. (John 15: 18-26, 16:2-3) They can expect the same treatment.
Finally, Jesus promises to leave “his peace” with them as he returns to the Father, and then he prays for them. In Chapter 17, we have Jesus’s great prayer for his disciples, and the heart of that prayer is a plea from Jesus to his Father to protect his followers and keep them united. Just as the Father and the Son are always one – so Jesus yearns for his people to be one. This Oneness and unity will speak powerfully to the world about the truth of the gospel. The deep unity of the Trinity – the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit must be reflected in the Church.
Now let’s go back to the promise of the Holy Spirit. What you will notice in the NT is that the Spirit is the promise of the Father and the Son, and the Spirit will be sent by the Father and the Son to those chosen by the Father and the Son. The Trinity works in harmony and unity together. Much of this teaching is recorded for us in the farewell discourse. Through this teaching Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit in two ways – or he gives the Holy Spirit two names.
- The Spirit of truth. (14:17, 15:26 and 16:13)
- The Paraclete (parakletos) which is variously translated in different bibles in an attempt to capture the meaning of the Greek term. Counsellor; Comforter; Helper; Advocate; Friend.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor (Paraclete) to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. (John 14: 16-17).
Here the two names are brought together by Jesus.
The best way to understand the term Paraclete is to embrace the literal meaning of the term which is “one who comes to be alongside” or “one who comes to stand with you or next to you.” The Father and the Son will send to the disciples the Spirit who will be alongside them forever. This is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will come alongside them as the constant Divine Helper, Counsellor. Comforter, Defender, Friend, Empowering Presence and Strength. The Spirit will actually come and be all that Jesus has been to the disciples over the last three years, only now in a spiritual sense, not a physical one. Jesus has been alongside them as Teacher, Counsellor, Guide, Helper, Friend – now that role will be taken on by the Spirit. The disciples will not be left alone. They will not be left as orphans. This is how Jesus seeks to bring comfort and reassurance to his disciples .
Notice that Jesus promises that the disciples will be given another Counsellor. The word used here for “another” is the word “allos” which means “another of the same kind”. Jesus was the first Counsellor; (Isaiah 9:6) the Spirit will replace him as the second. The Spirit will provide the disciples with all that Jesus provided them with as they step out to serve Jesus in the world and live for his glory. But also, and this is really important, as well as the Spirit being alongside them in every way as Jesus had been, He will actually live “in them”. The Divine presence and power will actually take up residence in them.
The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. BUT you know him, for he lives with you and will be IN YOU. (John 14:17)
And that great truth is emphasised all over the NT. The Holy Spirit will come to live in Jesus’s disciples, disciples then and disciples now! The Spirit walks alongside us but also dwells within us. God in us – and that is what makes all the difference! This is the glory of Christianity. The Spirit lives within us and works within us and through us. This is absolutely life transforming. Christians will therefore have a blessed relationship with the Holy Spirit because this Divine personal presence will be with them and in them forever. And the Spirit is always referred to in personal terms. He is a person not a force. And He is a person with infinite power, strength and love. This Divine Person – the third person in the blessed holy Trinity – is holy, powerful, strong, dynamic, and yet gentle as a dove.
He is also according to Jesus, the Spirit of truth. That’s an interesting name/title. The Spirit is truth because He magnifies and exalts and promotes TRUTH (and holiness because He is the HOLY Spirit). Who or what else is referred as TRUTH in John’s gospel and in the bible? Two things:
- God’s Word
Remember how this farewell discourse started. Jesus declared, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. No-one comes to the Father but by me.” The Holy Spirit is therefore always working to magnify, glorify, reveal, and testify to Jesus – because Jesus is the truth – and the Spirit is the Spirit of truth!
But as well as magnifying Jesus, the Holy Spirit also magnifies, exalts, blesses and promotes God’s holy Word (the Bible) which is also TRUTH. In his prayer for the disciples which I referred to earlier, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth is therefore always working and moving to magnify Jesus and his Word – both of which are TRUTH.
So, Jesus is teaching the disciples a great deal about the person and work of the Holy Spirit through introducing these two names, Paraclete and Spirit of truth. After Jesus has left them and returned to the Father, He and the Father will send the Spirit to come alongside and live within each of the disciples. The Spirit will be in them and alongside them to counsel, help, strengthen, empower, guide and fellowship with them. The disciples will never be alone – the Spirit will be with them forever.
There will be a beautiful and precious and fruitful relationship between each believer and the Spirit of truth. The Christian will not only affirm that they “believe in the Holy Spirit but that they know the Spirit lives in them, and walks alongside them. There will be a personal relationship and fellowship with the Holy Spirit. The benediction that Christians often share will be a living reality in their hearts;
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
The Christian will know and enjoy personal fellowship with the Spirit.
The world by stark contrast, according to Jesus, does not believe in the Holy Spirit. The world does not know the Spirit, or appreciate and value the Spirit. The world understands nothing about the Spirit of truth. “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him or knows him.” (John 14:17) To talk about the Spirit with the world is to talk in another language which they do not understand or accept. The Spirit is completely alien to the non-believer. As Paul so perceptively writes to the Corinthians;
“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2: 12-14)
Although the non-believer does not believe in or accept the Holy Spirit, the Spirit still works in them but not to comfort, but to convict and to convince. Jesus says in his farewell discourse;
“When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgement” (John 16:8)
So, when the Spirit comes upon the unbelieving world, he moves in mysterious power like the wind to convict unbelievers of their sin, of their need for righteousness before a holy and righteous God, and of the judgement to come. The Spirit works to convict the unbeliever of their sin and the reality of judgment, but also works to convince them of their need for Jesus, the only righteous and perfect Saviour. He points out sin, and then points the sinner in the direction of Jesus and the cross – the truth at the heart of the gospel message. The Spirit convicts of error and leads people toward the one true Saviour and God. Anyone who is converted is converted because the Spirit has been working in them so that they might see their need for Christ who is the truth. At the point I became a Christian, the Spirit had been convicting me for some time of my sin and guilt before God, but also convincing me about the truth of Jesus. The Holy Spirit actually convicts, convinces and converts. The Spirit causes people to be born again of the Spirit (John 3: 5-6) Then the new life begins in/with the Spirit. The Spirit who created all life at the beginning (Genesis 1:2) now creates new spiritual life which results in love for Jesus and reconciliation to God. The Spirit comes to live in the “new creation”, the new convert.
This marks the beginning of an entirely new life and journey with God in the life and power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to live in the new believer. He sets up home in their heart. The Spirit then makes Jesus real in the heart and life of the Christian. The Spirit brings to birth the reality and the experience of the living and reigning Jesus. The presence of Jesus becomes real through the Spirit’s presence.
The Spirit also adopts the believer into the family of God. The believer receives the Spirit of adoption whereby they can really know and call God their Father – Abba Father. Our Father who is in heaven. They can by the power of the Spirit and through Jesus come close to the Father in prayer and fellowship. The Spirit brings the reality of Jesus’s Lordship and the Fatherhood of God alive! This is all living experience which results in joy and peace and security and a magnificent sense of freedom.,
The Spirit also begins to bring significant change. Where he moves in – sin moves out because He is the Holy Spirit who loves truth. The Spirit therefore works to cleanse and refine and change from the inside from a new heart. His aim is to take people deeper into Jesus, into truth, and true godly and Christlike living with Christlike character. The Spirit starts to grow his fruit including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. The Spirit wants believers to bear the family likeness – likeness to Jesus. The Spirit also gives new power to live this way and walk with God in victory. He gives gifts of power and grace to believers that they may serve God. The Spirit equips with power, strength and supernatural graces. More than anything else – the Spirit makes Jesus and his truth real, relevant and totally life transforming. He also gives us precious assurance of our place in heaven. He is the divine down-payment for all the glory that is to come. (2 Corinthians 2:22) The living experience of the Spirit is therefore absolutely vital! This is true experiential, vibrant, Christianity.
Do you have and do you know the reality of the Holy Spirit in your life?
Some in the Church fall into the trap of being related to the institution of the Church but they know nothing of the true life and power of the Spirit. They may talk quite a lot about the Church as an institution and an organisation, but they have no personal knowledge, experience or relationship with the blessed Holy Spirit. This is how Jesus described the reality of Spirit in the believer’s life in John’s gospel. Nothing is more important than this. Is this your experience?
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood up and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” (John 7; 37-39)
The Spirit is someone to be “received”. We know when he has arrived and taken up residence. His presence within us is obvious. Does anybody really believe that you can have God the Holy Spirit living within you and not know about it? You should know about the presence of “streams of living water.”
The great question Paul asks to the Ephesians disciples is most relevant;
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts 19:2)
Do you know what their immediate answer was to that pertinent question?
“No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
Regretfully, I think that there are many in the same position as these Ephesians. They haven’t really heard about the truth of the Spirit. They have not experienced His presence or power in their lives. And they may have been sitting in the institutional Church for donkey’s years, but they have never received the Spirit and therefore never really known the reality of the living Jesus in a personal way.
So, the next vital question is this. Do you want to receive the precious gift of the Spirit? Are you thirsty? Are you really, truly thirsty for the Spirit to enter your life?
If the answer is yes – then Jesus tells you how you may experience this, and receive and know the life of the Spirit within you and alongside you. We find the teaching in Luke’s gospel this time;
Read Luke 11 v 9-13 (Read verse 13 three times!)
We will get nowhere in the Christian life without the Spirit of God within us! There can be no real genuine joy, peace or freedom without the intervention and incoming of the Spirit. The Church is a dead institution without the Spirit! LYCIG is a complete waste of time unless done with the Spirit, with his power, strength and perfect guidance and gifts. Christian discipleship and Church growth will be like walking through deep, thick mud without the Spirit. But with the presence and power of the Spirit – all things become possible. The baptism with the Holy Spirit makes all the difference! (Acts 1:5, 8)
Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord. (Zechariah 4:6)
My message and my preaching were not with wise or persuasive words but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
(1 Corinthians 2:4-5)
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.”
(1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)
When the great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon mounted the stairs to his towering pulpit within his Tabernacle, he would on each occasion recite the same statement of belief three times;
I believe in the Holy Spirit x 3
Do you believe In the Holy Spirit? Have you received Him? Is this living water flowing within you? Are you thirsty for the Spirit of truth? Is anyone thirsty on this Sunday morning? Then if so, ask, seek, and keep on knocking through heartfelt prayer. Ask God in his mercy and grace to pour His Spirit into your life. Drink in the Holy Spirit. Quench your thirst and know the blessing of the Spirit of truth.
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13)
Revd Peter J Clarkson June 12th 2022