The Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven to glorify Christ and to apply his work of salvation. He convicts sinners, imparts spiritual life and gives a true understanding of the Scriptures. He indwells all believers, brings assurance of salvation and produces increasing likeness to Christ. He builds up the Church and empowers its members for worship, service and mission.
The Holy Spirit
Text: Jn.16:13-14 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
There are folk who seem to imagine that the Holy Spirit is some kind of impersonal power source, some sort of spiritual electricity. When people hold such a view they think in terms of somehow plugging themselves in for when they are properly plugged-in then the Spirit’s current will start flowing automatically in their lives.
But the Bible does not speak to us of the Spirit as an impersonal "it" but as a very personal "he". The Holy Spirit is a person and most translations of the Bible are careful to avoid referring to the Spirit as "it". Reasons for this are not difficult to find:
has the attributes of personhood,
performs the actions of persons,
enjoys personal relationships.
He has insight and understanding (1Cor.2:10-11).
He knows things, which requires an intellect (Rom.8:27).
He has a will (1Cor.12:11).
He convicts of sin (Jn16:8).
He performs miracles (Acts 8:39).
He guides (Jn.16:13).
He intercedes between persons (Rom.8:26).
He issues instructions and is to be obeyed (Acts 10:19-20).
He can be lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), grieved (Eph.4:30), blasphemed (Mt.12:31), even insulted (Heb.10:29).
He relates to the apostles (Acts 15:28) and to each member of the Trinity (Jn.16:14; Mt.28:19; 2Cor.13:14).
So as we consider the Spirit this morning we will be considering a person and not a thing – the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
While we have to turn to the NT in order to find most of the clear revelation concerning the Spirit of God this does not mean that the Spirit was either absent from the pages of the OT or inactive before NT times.
The earliest reference to the Spirit of God comes as early as the second verse of the Bible where the Spirit of God is to portrayed as being actively involved in the divine work of Creation (Gen.1:2).
The Spirit is also seen as granting much needed abilities to specific individuals – Joseph (Gen.41:38) was suitably equipped for preparing for the coming famine in Egypt and the surrounding countries; Bezalel (Ex.31:3) was gifted in the realm of artistic design and craftsmanship, skills that were necessary for the construction of the Tabernacle; leaders were anointed with the Spirit to help Moses in the work of governing the people (Nu.11:17); various Judges were enabled by the Spirit to carry out their roles eg. Othniel (Jug.3:10) and so on through the OT.
The prophet Isaiah wrote about the Servant of the LORD who was yet to come. According to Isaiah’s prophetic words this Servant would know the Spirit of the LORD resting upon him (Is.11:2). This One prophesied by Isaiah was the Lord Jesus Christ who, when he came was described as receiving "the Spirit without measure" (Jn.3:34).
The Spirit was undoubtedly active in the OT but his influence was of a more temporary and restricted nature then than it is now under the dispensation of the New Covenant. The NT itself gives us an explanation of why that was so. The full and widespread blessings of the Holy Spirit are shown to be tied to the success of the ministry of the Lord Jesus:
Jn.7:39 "Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
So let us now turn from the OT to the NT where we will begin by considering the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of the Saviour Himself.
Jesus and the Spirit in the NT
After inspiring the prophets in the OT to speak about the coming Christ (1Pet.1:11) the Spirit did not disappear from the scene indeed he was active in the Incarnation. It was because of the Spirit’s intervention that the Virgin Mary conceived and bore her first born son, who was called Jesus.
As Jesus moved into the ministry phase of his life the Spirit came publicly upon him at the moment of his baptism. This important event was rendered all the more encouraging as the Father spoke to openly approve his Son from Heaven. The next thing we know is that Jesus, newly filled with the Spirit, is being led by the Spirit (or thrust by the Spirit) into the wilderness where he would overcome the devil who sought to divert him from doing things God’s way.
Being led by the Spirit does not equate to cushy living – sometimes quite the reverse may be the case.
With victory secured over Satan and his temptations Jesus returned to Galilee where he continued in the power of the Spirit (Lk.4:14) Indeed Jesus’ ministry was a ministry that was constantly empowered by the Spirit. The NT records of Jesus’ life contain many references to the Spirit.
He preached under the influence of the Spirit (Lk.4:18; Mt.12:18 see also Acts 1:2)
He worked miracles by the Spirit:
Acts 10:38 "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."
Mt.12:28 "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."
He was vindicated by the Holy Spirit by his victory over death:
Rom.1:4 he "was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord," Cf. 1Tim.3:16.
Jesus Christ taught his followers about the Holy Spirit and promised to send him to his disciples
When John the Baptist burst onto the scene many were very impressed by him but John didn’t want his hearers to make a mistake and think he was the most important person around. Comparing himself to Jesus he declared:
Mt.3:11 ""I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire."
And then when Jesus came he spoke of a time when the Spirit would be generously given to his followers:
Lk.11:13 "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
The apostle John recorded much more of what Jesus had to say about this:
Jn.14:15-17 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 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."
Did you notice how Jesus described the Spirit here? Some translations have comforter, counsellor or advocate and all these translations are good because the fundamental meaning of the original word used describes a person who is called alongside to help or to give support.
Did you also notice that Jesus said "another" helper? The word "another" that he used means another of the same sort – the Spirit was not a different sort of helper altogether but was a helper just as Jesus was their helper!. In other words Jesus promised his followers that the Spirit would help his disciples exactly filling the gap that he would otherwise have left in his lives when he returned to heaven.
Indeed the relation between Jesus and the Spirit is so close that in various different parts of the NT the Spirit is even said to be the Spirit of Jesus:
Acts 16:7 "And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them."
1Pet.1:10-11 "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories."
Gal.4:6 "And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!""
Having described the Spirit as "another helper" Jesus continued a little further on to describe the primary tasks that the Spirit would fulfil in their lives. The disciples had no need to fear the absence of Christ because the Spirit would teach them and in particular remind them of what Jesus had already said:
Jn.14:25-26 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
In fact Jesus would go further to add that the Spirit would speak up for him:
Jn.15:26 "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf."
The Spirit’s delights to do this – his purpose in coming is not to draw attention to himself but to ensure that Jesus is placed centre stage:
Jn.16:13-15 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
Jesus was speaking at this point to his chosen apostles and we must be careful that we don’t forget this important fact. It was these men who accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry and who would also soon be eye-witnesses of his resurrection who would be responsible for establishing the apostolic faith of the church, "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 3).
These men would be responsible under God for overseeing the writing the books that make up our NTs. Jesus’ promise to them was that the Spirit would enable them to carry out that crucial task effectively and well.
The promise also applies to us today but in a more restricted sense. The Spirit leads us into the truth that he has already established but we should not imagine that he will tell us things that have never been revealed to anyone before. So if you have properly understood anything about the truth of Jesus Christ in the gospel this is due to the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised his followers. If you would understand more and more then ask the Father to give you the Spirit, to fill you with his Spirit, and to go on filing you with his Spirit so that he might carry out his ministry of glorifying Jesus.
Central Elements in the Spirit’s Teaching Ministry
From what we have already seen one of the major tasks of the Spirit was and is to communicate the truth focusing in particular upon the Lord Jesus Christ. (This is by no means the only task he carries out as the helper of Jesus’ disciples but it is absolutely vital). Jesus highlighted in three specifics and we will conclude this morning by looking briefly at these.
They are there in Jn.16:8-11:
"And 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."
What does this actually mean? It means that the Holy Spirit will act, through the ministry of the apostles and of subsequent Christians down through the ages to apply truth to the lives of men and women as it is preached and shared. The exact way in which his ministry will be experienced by different individuals will however vary – the Bible does not teach that each and every individual will respond to the overtures of grace, some indeed instead of being progressively drawn to the Saviour and to faith in him will instead be hardened in their sinful, rebellious state.
But the Spirit’s work will convict – in some the effect of this will be the establishment and proof of a person’s guilt before God. This occurs when a sinner simply refuses to acknowledge his/her sin; refuses to recognise the justness of Christ’s claims and instead goes on siding with the old defeated order of the world with its ungodly goals and values.
Yet, happily, this is not the only effect of the Spirit’s ministry – in millions of others the results of his ministry are very different. For any sinner to be saved he must first be made aware of his need and of his state and this the Spirit does by this work of convicting, not now in terms of a final declaration of judgment but by producing a profound conviction of sin whereby the sinner has his attitudes and self-appreciation fundamentally altered. Such a sinner is brought to realise his status as a guilty sinner before God a holy God and he/she is not left indifferent by that realisation. Whereas previously Christ had been dismissed or ignored now he is recognised to be the One who was right all along. The world and its old godless ways are seen for what they really are.
It is in this way the Spirit carries out his work and the convicted sinner is thus prepared for repentance and faith. And the Spirit leads away from himself to the Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ who is the sinner’s true friend.
We find an example of just how this promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit came upon the gathered church granting boldness and courage to the disciples. Peter stood up and preached clearly on that occasion and in his message he dealt with these three subjects of sin, righteousness and judgment:
Peter declared the sin of which his hearers were guilty. Speaking about how they had treated Jesus Peter said:
Acts 2:23 "you crucified and killed (him) by the hands of lawless men."
Peter spoke too about the righteousness of Christ:
Acts 2:22 "Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested (or approved) to you by God"
God would not abandon his "Holy One" and demonstrated this approval by bringing Jesus to life by means of the resurrection.
Thirdly Peter spoke about the judgment in store for those who remained hostile to Christ:
Acts 2:34-35 "The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool."
When Peter preached like this many of his hearers were deeply affected – they were "cut to the heart" and asked what they could do. Peter followed this up with clear instructions:
Acts 2:38, 40 "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit..." And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."
The Holy Spirit carries on the same work that Jesus carried out beforehand.
He is a helper and encourager of God’s people.
He teaches the same truths taught by Jesus – recalling to the minds of the first apostles the things that Jesus had already taught and focusing attention centrally upon Jesus with the intent of glorifying him.
He does all that is necessary to bring men and women to repentance and faith in the finished work of Christ.
These are great things that the Spirit does but He does more than this and we will return with God’s help to consider more of the Spirit’s ministry next week.