In today’s passage we are continuing our study of what is called the Upper Room Discourse. It spans several chapters, and yet it all occurs in just one evening; Christ’s last evening with His disciples before He is crucified. In this talk that Jesus gives, He tells His disciples that He will be leaving them very soon, and that where He is going they cannot now come. Of course, they are very troubled by this revelation. And Jesus knows that they are upset over this. So He says to them not to be troubled, but that He will return for them one day, that they may be with Him forever.
But in the meantime, He says that He will send the Comforter, the Helper, who will take His place and come alongside of them. That is found in vs.16. He says He will send “allos Parakletos” another Helper to come alongside them who is just like Him. That is the translation of the Greek.
Then in vs.17, Jesus reveals the name of the Helper; the Spirit of Truth. He is sending the Holy Spirit to help them. Now this is very important for the disciples, because they are not going to make it if they don’t have some divine help. That much has been proven in the last 3 years of Jesus’s ministry. And even before this night is over, they are all going to fall away when Jesus is taken from them by force. They are going to be scattered. So they need to realize that they are not being forsaken.
But it is also important for the church today as well. Because we live in a time that we cannot touch and see and experience Jesus as they did. We live by faith in what He taught, but we cannot experience what the disciples experienced. And so it is even more important for us, because in some respects, the Christian life is harder for us than it was for them.
You may remember after His resurrection, Thomas did not believe the other disciples who said that they had seen the risen Lord. He said I’m not going to believe unless I put my finger in His nail prints and His wounded side. And Jesus shows up a few days later and says “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”
So it is important for us as it was for the disciples, to understand what Jesus is telling them here. Because Jesus is describing for them the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They needed to know what that was going to look like. And in the same way we need to know what the ministry of the Holy Spirit is supposed to look like, and what He is supposed to accomplish. Because we are living in the in betweens, the time between Jesus’s first appearing and His second appearing. And for those of us who are saved, we have this same promise of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, and without His help we cannot really know Christ and we are powerless to live the Christian life.
Furthermore, I think this is important for the modern church because no other doctrine is so misunderstood and twisted today than that of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The devil is a deceiver, and he spreads confusion and chaos in order to try to derail naive Christians, and to keep the Church from the victory which is possible and promised in Christ. So let’s try to unpack these verses and see if we can’t demystify some of the misunderstandings and mischaracterizations that surround this important doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
First note in vs.16 that Jesus identifies the primary work of the Holy Spirit in the very title that He uses for Him. As I mentioned earlier Jesus says He is the “Allos Paracletos.” Paraclete means one who is called alongside to help. And then “allos” means another of the same kind. So that Jesus is saying, I am going to send you another Helper to come alongside of you of the same kind as I am.
Now that is important. Because many people think that the Holy Spirit is something completely different than Jesus. But as He recorded in vs.10, Jesus said He didn’t do anything on His own initiative, but He spoke the words of God and He did the works of God. And He said that is how you could know that He was of God. He told Philip in vs.9, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” So if you wanted to know what God was like, you simply had to watch and listen to Jesus. The same principle is true of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not glorify Himself, but glorifies Jesus. Jesus said in chapter 15:26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” And in chapter 16:13 He says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
In Romans 8:9, Paul identifies the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of God and then again as the Spirit of Christ. So there you see the unity of the trinity. The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus, and Jesus glorifies the Father. The Holy Spirit doesn’t speak on His initiative, but He speaks the words of Christ. And Christ doesn’t speak on His initiative, but He speaks the words of the Father. So they are in agreement. They are three in One. The ministry of the Holy Spirit then is to glorify Jesus, and Jesus glorifies the Father.
So Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit is going to take over where He leaves off, and He is going to continue the ministry that Jesus was doing. He is going to be with the disciples every minute of every day, just like Jesus was. Vs.17, “that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
Let’s break that down a little bit. There are two elements in this verse that I want to focus on. First, Jesus calls Him the Spirit of Truth. The second element is that He abides with you and will be in you. Two vital components of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
First, the Spirit of Truth. Jesus has just announced in vs.6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” So Jesus is the Truth. In John 1, it says Jesus is the Word. So the Word and the Truth are one and the same. As Jesus concludes this Upper Room Discourse, He prays for His disciples, and in that prayer in chapter 17, Jesus says in vs.17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
So the Word and the Truth are two sides to the same coin. God’s word is the truth. Jesus’s whole ministry had been about teaching God’s word, teaching the truth about God. Teaching the truth about the Kingdom of God and what it is like and how we must enter into it. Jesus said in chapter 8vs31, ““If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
So the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to teach the disciples the truth of God’s word. To help them to discern the truth of Christ’s gospel. He is the minister of the Word. This is how we can know the truth. And this is how we can know the Spirit of Truth. He will speak the word of God, He will minister the word of God. He will not speak new revelation, but He will disclose the revelation of Christ. We can verify the ministry of the Spirit by whether or not He ministers through the word. He doesn’t come to give us an emotional experience, but He comes to give us the word of God.
Secondly, the Spirit is given to help them do God’s word. Vs. 12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” Jesus adds in chapter 16:7 “But 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.” So the power of the Holy Spirit is given to help us do the works of God.
In Acts 1:8 Jesus told His disciples, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” That was the “greater works than these” which Jesus promised them in chapter 14. They would take the gospel to the whole world through the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is the same power that is available to us as we witness to the world. And that power of the Holy Spirit finds it’s root in the word of God, the gospel. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
So they have the same power through the Holy Spirit as they had with Christ, that they might do the works of God as Christ did. Then as indicated in chapter 14 vs 12, what are the works of God? First, it’s the will of God. Vs.14“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Jesus is going to help us to do what He wants us to do. He is not going to ask us to do anything contrary to God’s will, and He will provide all our needs to do His will. In 1John 5:14 it says, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” The disciples could continue Christ’s ministry because the power of the Holy Spirit would provide what was necessary to do the works of God.
Secondly, the works of God are found in the word of God. It’s the commandments of God. vs.15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Notice how many times Jesus speaks of this principle, equating love and obedience, keeping His word with His communion with us. Vs.21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” Vs.23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” And vs.24, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”
So how does the Holy Spirit help us to do God’s word, to keep His commandments? Jesus says that He does that by reminding us of His words. vs. 25, “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 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 said to you.” Now that was fulfilled in two ways. One was when the disciples preached the gospel or had to give a defense of the gospel, the Holy Spirit brought to their mind the word of God. These were unlearned men. They weren’t Rabbis trained in the scriptures. And yet when you hear Peter preach on the day of Pentecost, he preaches from the word of God, quoting from Old Testament prophesies like that of Joel. And he does so with discernment, with the discernment which is given to him by the Spirit of Truth.
And in the life of a modern day believer, we have the same promise. We are told to hide the word of God in our hearts that we might not sin against Him. The Spirit of God brings to our mind the words of God in order to teach us how we are to act. He uses the preaching of God’s word to admonish us and correct us when we get out of line. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” So Paul tells young pastor Timothy in 2Timothy 4:2 to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” The Holy Spirit uses the word of God to train us so that we might keep His word. He works through the spoken word of God.
But the other purpose of the Spirit bringing the words of Christ to their remembrance was to author through them the scriptures. They would go on to write the gospels and the epistles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. 2Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” And Peter adds in 2Peter 1:20, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
The scriptures are the great legacy left to us by the apostles under the direction of the Holy Spirit. That today we might know God and know the way to God because we have the word of God made more sure. It is written down for us by eyewitnesses, who had every word brought to their mind by the Spirit of Truth who brought it to their remembrance.
This is how we might know God and to be known by God. We cannot come to know God and be known by God apart from the word of God. I said a couple of weeks ago that there is no greater comfort than to know God, and to be known by God. There is no greater treasure. There is no greater blessing. Jesus said in vs 21 of our text, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” As we keep His word, He discloses more of Himself to us, that we might know Him more and more.
The second element of the ministry of the Holy Spirit as stated in vs.17 is that He abides with you and will be in you. And again, this is a principle that Jesus makes over and over again. He wants to drive this home because He knows that in a few hours He will be crucified and laid in a tomb. And so He wants to offer to His disciples the comfort of the Paracletos, the One like Him who will come alongside of them to help them and teach them and lead them in His absence.
So because the Spirit reveals truth through the word, because He is able to help us to know the word and obey the word, we come to know the love of God, which produces intimacy through the indwelling of His Spirit. That we might be one with Him, and live with Him, and be with Him forever.
Note in vs.18 Jesus anticipates that sense of abandonment and bewilderment that they will surely feel in just a few hours. He says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” I think that is key to having the comfort of the Holy Spirit. That this is not something we work for, or have to apply for, or even ask for. It is the initiative of Jesus Christ that sends the Holy Spirit to us, because He will not leave us comfortless. He will not expect us to go on without Him. He doesn’t expect us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get our life straightened out first. No, but He sends His Spirit to us in our hour of need to help us. When we were helpless, He came to us and offered Himself as our substitute. And when He went away, He came again in the Spirit of Christ and took up residence in each of us so that He might be with us always. Matt.28:20, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The word in the Greek there is “orphanos,” it means fatherless. Or one bereft of a teacher, guide or guardian. Christ will never leave us fatherless, helpless. He will come to us in the Spirit of God, to be with us forever. Look how often He reiterates this promise. Vs.16, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” Vs.17, “you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” vs. 20, “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” And vs.23, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”
So four times the Lord tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit will be in them and abide in them forever. And that promise stands for us today as well. Romans 8:9 says, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
But how do we know this to be true? How do we know that we have the Spirit of Truth dwelling in us? Is it through some experience? Is it by some emotional response on our part? Is it by some supernatural occurrence that we have this confidence and comfort? I don’t believe so. There may be feelings or emotions one way or another, or no emotions at all. No supernatural occurrence whatsoever. Jesus doesn’t say anything about how you would feel. He says you will know it. Look at vs.17 again: “that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
Notice He says that the world cannot know Him. Why? Because the world is not saved. The world has not received salvation through faith in Christ. They try to judge spiritual things by what they can touch or feel or sense with their senses. But the Bible says that the just shall live by faith. And that which is seen is not faith. Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the]assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old gained approval.” So Jesus says you cannot try to know what is unseen by the senses.
Instead He uses the Greek word “ginosko” which means to know intimately. It was often used to imply the intimacy between a man and his wife. It is the knowledge which comes of an intimate relationship. He says that you will know that the Holy Spirit is in you, because you will have the intimacy of relationship with Me. That is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is in you and will abide in you forever. Because you know Him with an intimate relationship based on love.
And how do we have that intimacy? We have intimacy with Christ when we keep His word. Vs.23, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” Love is the basis for intimacy. And intimacy is the basis for the knowledge and assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us. He proves Himself to us as we study His word and obey His word. That is how we show our love for Him. And when we love Him, He will love us in return in a special way that supersedes our senses. So that whether we live or die, we know we are the Lord’s. Whether we are in comfort or in danger, we know we are the Lord’s. Whether we are in poverty or in plenty, we know we are the Lord’s.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He has sent His Spirit to dwell in our hearts by faith. He has given us His word which will abide forever. That we might be comforted with the word. So that we might know God, and know that God knows us, that we are His, and He is mine, and He will be with us, forever. Amen.