"We Believe in the Holy Spirit" John 16:7 Pastor Allan Wooters, D.Min.
With the words of our text, Jesus delivers one of His most exciting and amazing teachings found in any of the Gospels. It concerns the person and mission of the Holy Spirit. Given that there is so much confusion and false teaching is alive and well concerning the Holy Spirit, it is critically important that we understand what Jesus teaches about the Spirit. We need this because there is so much encouragement to be gained; and we need all the encouragement we can get these days.
The Apostle’s Creed makes a simple statement concerning the Spirit declaring: “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” It is part of a string of critically important affirmations of faith which we need. Focusing on the Spirt we do need to believe just as did the disciples. Jesus was soon to die. Trying times were upon those men and would be with them for the rest of their lives. They would need power, grace, confidence, and hope to accomplish what God wanted them to accomplish in their lives. Don’t you need this? Yes, yes you and I do! And we have it through the Spirit. So, let’s get at it. First, it is crucial to recognize that the Holy Spirit is not simply some power from God, but a real person.
The Spirit is not Just a Power but a Person, 16:7
Note Jesus’ words: “I will send Him to you” (emphasis added). The Holy Spirit is not simply some mysterious impersonal force. Nor is He some heavenly buzz that falls on people to slay them in the Spirit especially when the right funky psychedelic worship music is booming. Now the Spirit is power but power in a person.
In the early days of rock and roll, the Marshall amplifier company created a massively loud amp. Groups started using several of these amps to create what was called “a wall of sound.” It was! It hurt your ears. You could literally feel the sound. Being a teen, of course, I loved it, but the experience came with a price. To this day, due to my involvement in creating those walls of sound for our rock group my ears ring nonstop. I felt the power, used the power, but it cost me. The power of that wall of sound was impersonal and had no concern for me in the slightest.
It is not the same with the Spirit. He is power but He is a person and one who will never harm God’s people. In fact, He is a divine person because He is the third member of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And so, any teaching that downplays or denies the full personhood of the Spirit is unbiblical, denying what Jesus taught about the Spirit. Now with that fact we need to consider a second point Jesus states. That point is that the Spirit is at work in this world.
The Spirit is at Work in the World
The work of the Spirit to the outside world is found in vs.16:8 – 11. Have you recently thought that we live in a God-forsaken world? Well, we don’t. Not yet anyway. Jesus shows us that the Spirit is involved in this world and His mission involves the work of conviction. He does the work of revealing sin, righteousness, and judgment. “Sin” is the truth about humankind. “Righteousness” is the truth about God, while “judgment” is the inevitable combination of these two truths. You see, God is holy, and we are not! We are unholy because we are all guilty of high treason against God Almighty. But in our sinful state we don’t see it that way. We see ourselves a good, kind, respectable men, and women. The Spirit opens our eyes and hearts to the truth of our sin. This is a very good thing by the way because if we never saw our true state before God, we could never find forgiveness and be saved. But this fact highlights another role of the Spirit I need to mention.
The Spirit is involved in the work of conversion. Jesus makes this clear in John 3:6 – 8. There Jesus says, “You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it… so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The Spirit does the work of conversion of saving those who believe.
We need to remember this as Christians. It helps us to realize that we don’t have to be perfect in our witnessing, teaching, or preaching. Now, don’t get me wrong, we should strive for excellence in all we do for our Lord. Half efforts, sloppy work, an “It’s good enough” attitude is insulting to the Spirit! God gave us His best; do we not give Him our best? This is why it is often said that we work for God like it all depends on us, but we pray like it all depends on the Spirit. But in the end, it is the Spirit who convinces anyone of his or her need of Christ. So, our sharing the gospel and the Spirit’s work are conjoined. I’ve said on many occasions that our witness can only reach the ear, God alone can reach the heart. That’s what the Spirit does. How important is the role of the Spirit in conversion? My friend, you wouldn’t be saved if it were not for the Spirit. I don’t care how godly of a home you were raised in. I don’t care how much Christian nurturing you received. When you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior it was ultimately in response to His work in your soul. The Spirit is at work in this world but more than that: He is at work for you.
The Spirit is at Work for You
Part of what Jesus says about this blessing is found in 16:12 – 15. I can just briefly touch on these facts concerning the ministry of the Spirit on our behalf. I encourage you to take these points and meditate on them. And besides, being brief keeps the sermon shorter and like biscuits, sermons are improved with shortening! Okay, I’ll move on.
First, the Spirit teaches us the truth about Jesus. In these verses Jesus calls the Spirit, “the Spirit of truth” who “will guide you into all the truth.” Further, “He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” Notice, the Spirit “will guide” us. Guide us through what? Jesus’ teaching! And where do we find that? Why in the Bible. So, the way the Spirit guides us “into all the truth,” is not by mystical revelations, not by voices, and feelings, but by opening our understanding of Scripture. We have the only faith where one does not need a Ph.D. to understand the revelation of God found in Scripture. The simplest believers can and do have profound insights into the reality of God. They have it, like all of us, because the Spirit of God showed it to them. Now, scholarly work is important, don’t get me wrong. We need informed teachers as God has so ordained the gift of teaching in the church. But a string of degree is not necessary to understand many profound truths about God. Be a good student of Scripture to be sure but trust the Spirit to bless your work by giving you understanding. A. W. Tozer put it best when he said, "I don't want the world to define God for me. I want the Holy Spirit to reveal God to me." Amen?
Second, the Spirit focuses our minds on Christ, v.14 – 15. We are commanded in Hebrews 12 to run the race of the Christian life with our eyes focused on Jesus. But how hard is that with all the distractions and temptations we face daily? Yet, the Spirit helps us. He is there working in our souls to cause us to look to Jesus. I think at times He has had to jerk my head and say, “Allan, look!” I’m so glad He did that! I need to get my head in the right place at times. Lately, it’s been especially challenging, and I know it has been for you. But the key is Jesus. We need to be reminded of His promises, power, and presence. It is the Spirit who ministers that need to us.
Amazing, but there’s more! Earlier in Jesus talk with His disciples, He shared some insights concerning the work of the Spirit. It is found in 14:16 – 27. We must take a moment to see this!
To add a third factor to the list, we see that the Spirit is at work as Jesus’ qualified substitute, 14:16. He is “another Helper.” Now, here’s where a little scholarship helps concerning the Greek language. The word another in Greek can be used in two ways. It can mean, “another of a different kind” or “another of the same kind.” Guess which Greek word is used here? It’s “another of the same kind.” The same kind was what? Not what! But Who! Jesus is saying here the Spirit will be another of the same kind of comforter, advocate, or helper that He had been to the disciples. So, Jesus could promise at v.18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus could come to them because the Spirit is the same as Jesus! Is your head spinning a little bit? Welcome to one of the exciting mysteries of the Trinity but I will move on.
Fourth, the Spirit is at work uniting us to the fullness of God, 14:19 – 24. How I wish I could go into the details of this teaching! But the promise is that the fullness of God, not a bit or part of God, but His entire being, is with us at all times, in all places, and in all manner of circumstances. When you feel worried, God is with you. When you grow tried or confused, you are not alone. When life hits hard, God gives strength, wisdom, and more. By the way, the Spirit is what the church as a whole needs. Someone observed, "The less Holy Spirit we have, the more cake and coffee we need to keep the church going."
Fifth, the Spirit is working to grace us with the peace of God, vs.25 – 27. This was an amazing promise for Jesus to give His men in light of what they were about to face. They would experience not just dismay over Jesus’ arrest, torture, and death, but they would know sheer terror as well. Yet, Jesus speaks of peace. It would not be a peace they found just by looking inside or staying positive. It is peace as a gift!
What we have by the Spirit is amazing. Max Lucado summed up the grace of the Spirit saying:
You have a God who hears you, the power of love behind you, the Holy Spirit within you, and all of heaven ahead of you. If you have the Shepherd, you have grace for every sin, direction for every turn, a candle for every corner and an anchor for every storm. You have everything you need.
We therefore join with the saints of old and declare, we believe in the Holy Spirit.
For Further Reading
The Holy Spirit, Geoffrey Thomas