Wednesday, March 15, 2017
"The Advantage of the Holy Spirit" John 16:4b-15
“The Advantage of the Holy Spirit”
March 12, 2017 Second Reformed Church
Last week, we saw Jesus explain to the Eleven that the world hates Jesus, so it hates Christians as well. Our normal life as a Christian is as a hated and persecuted people – if we are proclaiming the Gospel!
Yet, suffering for Christ is a good thing, because it proves that we are His, and we are drawn together in sacrificial love for one another, and we see that Scripture is fulfilled that says that Jesus would be hated without cause – and since we are not greater than Jesus – we are hated – for the sake of Christ – without cause as well.
Still, Jesus promises again that God the Holy Spirit will indwell every believer – and in today’s text, we see why that is such an advantage for us.
But first, Jesus reprimands the Eleven for not questioning Him.
“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. 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.”
Jesus has been telling the Eleven for some time that He is going to die and return to the Father, and they repeatedly ask Him where He is going and why they can’t go with Him. They are anxious about Jesus leaving and what this will mean for them.
But after Jesus explains that they are to love each other sacrificially and suffer for the sake of the Gospel – then – they don’t ask Jesus what the purpose is behind His leaving. Yes, He tells them that the Holy Spirit will indwell them, but He hadn’t explained to them why this is a better thing than Jesus staying and continuing to teach them and raise objections to the Pharisees’ interpretation of and additions to the Word of God.
Jesus scolds them a little bit and tells them that now is the time to be asking questions. Now is the time to ask Him to explain what is good about His going back to the Father.
And then Jesus comforts them, because He knows He has saddened them by telling them that He will die and return to the Father and they will suffer unlike any suffering they have ever suffered. Beginning with the arrest, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Church enters into the Tribulation. The new, greater persecution of Christians begins.
John explains it symbolically to the Church suffering under the persecution of Caesar Nero like this:
“And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:1-6, ESV).
And a little later he writes:
“And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea” (Revelation 12:13-17, ESV).
John writes these words to comfort the Christians suffering persecution – and very quickly – the woman is the Church, the baby is Jesus, and the dragon is the devil and his forces. And what we see in this brief section is that the Church will suffer, Jesus will be victorious in His work, and the devil and his followers will be frustrated. This is good news – and encouragement to people being crucified, fed to the lions, burned as torches, and so forth – it is good news for us, because nothing has changed: as Jesus promises – the Church and all believers will suffer for the sake of the Gospel – even to death – until Jesus returns – when the worst suffering we endure will be nothing compared with the glory we are received into.
Remember, beloved, Job lost his money, his home, his family, his health, and then he said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” (Job 19:25-27, ESV).
Then Jesus turns and tells the Eleven three advantages of the Holy Spirit:
Second, the Holy Spirit convicts the world.
“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.”
The Holy Spirit and His indwelling of us is an advantage because He convicts the world.
The first question we need to ask ourselves is what the word, “convict,” means. The English word can mean “persuade” or “pass judgement against.” And, as it happens, so does the Greek word. So, we will understand this to mean that the Holy Spirit both persuades and passes judgement against. The Holy Spirit calls people to righteousness and He exposes guilt and fault.
With that in mind, Jesus tells the Eleven that the Holy Spirit is an advantage because He convicts the world – that is, those who never believe – in three ways. And this is an advantage to believers, because He vindicates we who proclaim the Gospel against those who hate and persecute us. God is enacting His tribunal to judge.
First, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin.
And this is a specific sin – this is the unpardonable sin – this is the sin of not believing that Jesus is God the Son and Savior – this is rejecting the salvation merited by Jesus.
As Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29, ESV).
The Holy Spirit persuades the world that it has rejected Jesus – He reveals the world’s despising of Jesus’ salvation and person, and the Holy Spirit judges the world as guilty for that sin – eternally guilty.
Second, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of righteousness.
That is, the Holy Spirit proves to the world that Jesus is righteous and was knowingly put to death as the Righteousness of God.
As Peter preached on the day of Pentecost: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:22-23, ESV).
And, as Nichodemus says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him” (John 3:2b, ESV).
The problem is not the unreasonableness of the Gospel or a lack of knowledge of the Gospel – Jesus is rightly recorded as sinless and holy – but the world hates Him for it – the world hates God for not allowing it to remain in rebellion against God and still be blessed.
The Holy Spirit puts this evidence before the world – both through the reading of God’s Word and through preaching and proclaiming the Good News – and the Holy Spirit exposes the guilt of the world in despising the righteousness of Jesus.
Third, the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning the judgment it is under.
As the Gospel is proclaimed, the bad news is also proclaimed – that there is no salvation except through Jesus Alone. God is just and will punish all sin to the fullest extent.
You are either saved through Jesus taking your place before God, or you reject Jesus and stand before God yourself – and if there is any sin in you as you stand before God, you are utterly condemned.
John records: “Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:18-21, ESV).
Altogether, as we suffer through this tribulation for the sake of Christ and His Gospel, the Holy Spirit takes our efforts on behalf of the Gospel and applies them as He wills – and for those who will never believe, He proves Jesus to be God the Son and Savior and we to be His as the Holy Spirit shows the world to have committed the unforgivable sin – rejecting Him and His salvation, to have denied the righteousness of Christ – calling Him a sinner or worse, and by announcing the condemnation and sentence of eternal punishment for those who do not believe.
Third, the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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.”
Now, we have to be careful here and remember that Jesus is speaking to the Eleven. What Jesus says is first to the Eleven and concerning the Eleven – not us.
So, when Jesus tells them that He has many things to tell them, but they cannot bear it now – because they are so overwhelmed and saddened by what Jesus has said and not taken into account what advantage all of this has for them – Jesus is making a promise to the Eleven that after He leaves the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth and will declare to them the things that are to come – not us.
So, what is the revelation – the truth – that Jesus gave through the Holy Spirit to the Eleven that did not exist at that time? The rest of the Bible from Acts through Revelation.
Remember, we have seen that the Bible is God’s Holy Word. It is inerrant and infallible. It was written down by human beings who were inspired by God – who were lead in all truth by God the Holy Spirit – and the humans wrote in their own style and with their own abilities, but the Holy Spirit made sure that what they wrote down was without error.
But what if the Holy Spirit had something new to tell us? He wouldn’t – because, as Jesus says, he does not speak on his own – the Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in perfect agreement of knowledge and honor to each other. The Holy Spirit’s primary work is to point to Jesus – to illumine His Gospel to those who will believe to salvation and against those who will not believe to their damnation.
Well, what about now? Is the Holy Spirit continuing to give new revelation to us? Is there another testament of Jesus Christ – as the Mormons teach? No. The book of Mormon is not from God – it is a lie – and we know that because it contradicts the Bible – and anything that contradicts itself cannot be from God, because God is perfect. Likewise, the current bestselling, “Jesus Calling,” is a lie – it is not a new revelation of Jesus, because it contradicts the Bible. And there is no additional writing or speaking because the Eleven died – and they were the ones to whom the promise was made.
What the Holy Spirit does for us with regards to the Word of God is that He helps us to understand what the Word of God means and He helps us to remember what we have read and heard in the Bible. Remember, He will not remind us of something we have never heard or read. We have to know the Bible – we have to have read or hear the Bible for Him to remind us of it and then guide us into the truth of it – the understanding of what it means.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
“He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus.
The Holy Spirit takes the Incarnate Son of God – who is like a planet or the sun to our naked eyes – and like a telescope – He takes the One Who is so immense, so incomprehensible, so vast, so much more than our minds can possibly comprehend – He shows us Jesus – He reveals Jesus to us – in a way that we can receive Him in awestruck love. The Holy Spirit shows us Jesus through the Scripture and rightly understanding the Scripture – and we rightly respond by falling before Jesus in worship – declaring Him to be holy, holy, holy – desiring to know Him and be like Him and to be in His presence – to be changed, so we will not see how repulsive we are due to our sin before Him. And the Holy Spirit works in us and changes us and makes us into the Image of Jesus Christ.
We learn everything we can know about the Triune God through the working of the Holy Spirit in us to open our eyes and change out our hearts and renew our minds so we are new creatures. Everything that the Father has, He gave to the Son, and the Son with the Father gives it to the Holy Spirit Who reveals all these things to us in the Bible and causes us to understand them and believe them.
This is some of what it means that the Holy Spirit is an advantage to us.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world as we proclaim the Gospel.
The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth through the Bible.
The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus and leaves us lost in wonder, love, and praise.
And so it is that no matter what we endure for Christ in this tribulation until He returns, all is well, and we join with the Holy Spirit in glorifying Jesus.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, help us to receive the truth of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit and understand His being with us as an advantage to our witness, our understanding of Your Word, and our becoming like Your Son. Help us to trust in You and rely on Him as we continue through this tribulation, rejoicing in Jesus, our Savior, and looking forward to His soon return. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.