“But I tell you that I am going to do what is best for you. That is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you.” (John 16:7)
You could call the Holy Spirit Jesus’ going away present, first to His disciples, and then, of course, to each of us. As you will hear in this PODCAST, we’re talking about The Third Member of Trinity, the Mysterious Member of the Trinity.
Here in John 14-17 (the so-called Upper Room Discourse, even though as we noted last week, Jesus taught the amazing truths of John 15-17 after He and the disciples-minus-Judas had hastily departed the Upper Room, steps ahead of the Judas-led-posse seeking Jesus’ arrest) we have the first extended theological discussion of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, actually in the entire Bible.
Up until now, the Biblical writers have been largely silent regarding the multifaceted ministry of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout the Old Testament. But the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is not developed in the Old Testament. This, as you are about to hear, for very good reason, one that harkens all the way back to the very first podcast in this series.
So here we have, in the Upper Room Discourse, one of the very few places in Scripture where the Biblical writers (in this case, John) devote much ink and parchment to a discussion of the Mysterious Member of the Trinity.
One of three principle themes that Jesus develops in this, His farewell address to His men, literally minutes before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Underscoring this entire Upper Room Discourse is a vitally important principle to which Jesus alluded in High Priestly Prayer that we will study in detail in John 17. A declarative sentence of very few words that speaks volumes as to how Jesus wants His committed followers then and now to engage the world in which we live.
“Father, I do not ask you to take my followers out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.” (John 17:15)
HOW UTTERLY IRONIC!!!
Think about how much effort and programming in so many American churches go toward coming up with programs designed to keep us from the world. If we filled our calendars with these programs, we would be so incredibly busy “doing church” that we wouldn’t have a spare second to spend outside our church walls, in the world.
Yet, underscoring Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse is this message – mission even – for these eleven men who will be living in a world utterly hostile toward them, a world that will kill Jesus in mere hours and each of them (save John) in the next few years.
So, since Jesus instructed them – and us – to engage the world, He also gave us all an indispensible promise:
I will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor/Helper/Intercessor/Advocate/Strengthener/Encourager who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit. I will not abandon you as orphans. (John 14:16-18)
That is our promised protection when we engage the world – the third person of the Trinity who is not only with us, but in us, and He will never ever leave us.
So, given the facts that we are called by God to live in and engage a spiritually hostile world, it is vitally important that we understand who the Holy Spirit is and what He does.
Firstly, we need to know and understand how the Holy Spirit relates to the truth – absolute, Biblical truth. We need to understand how the Holy Spirit will use the Apostles to write the New Testament. After all, along with the Old Testament, these writings are the rock solid foundation of our faith. Our Christian faith does not rest on our feelings, scientific theories that change endlessly as new data surfaces, nor subjective opinions of philosophers. No, our faith rests solely upon the unchanging, absolute, objective truth of the Bible.
This is why Jesus said,
He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. (John 14:17)
Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit leading the eleven Apostles who were there with Him into the absolute truth, the result of which is our New Testament. And, lest there be any doubt, John 17:17 reveals Jesus’ prayer to God the Father regarding His Apostles:
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.
Our source of truth – the only source – is the Bible.
Now, there are three points of clarification regarding this.
Firstly, when Jesus said that ”the Holy Spirit would lead to all truth” in John 14:17, and when Jesus said in John 16:13 that when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, this was a promise made exclusively to the Apostles. This was not a promise made to you and me.
In other words, the Holy Spirit is NOT revealing new truth to anyone today.
The Bible is complete. In fact, John – who was there in the Upper Room with Jesus – wrote in the final chapter of the final book of the Bible this warning for us:
And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19 And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
As John penned these words, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He was making it inarguably known for the rest of history that the Bible was now made complete. Revealed truth ended then.
Therefore, don’t let anyone tell you that they received a word from the Lord, or from the Holy Spirit, unless that word is to quote Scripture.
You see, Jesus’ words have nothing to do with what is known as the Doctrine of Illumination. This is the faulty notion that anyone can pick up a Bible, simply read it, and the Holy Spirit will tell them or guide them to a proper understanding of the Bible without diligent study.
But, don’t misunderstand me… I’m not saying that you, or anyone else cannot open the Bible and get a ton out of what you read. Certainly we can. That’s not the point. The point is that the vast linguistical, historical, geographical, cultural, archeological, and other gaps that exist between us and the life and times of the Biblical writers create undeniable layers. Anyone can read the Bible and get a lot out of the surface materials: Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. And if you are content with that being the extent of your Biblical understanding, then God bless you. But, like pulling back the layers of an onion, there is so much more to grasp, understand and live out!
Now, when Jesus’ told the Apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth, the product of which is what we know as the Gospels, Epistles and Book of Revelation, His words were completely consistent with and amplified throughout the books of the New Testament.
All Scripture is God-breathed… (2 Timothy 3:16)
It’s as if the Bible contained blank pages and the Holy Spirit, through the Apostolic authors, breathed on the pages and out came the words of the Bible. Peter echoed this and amplified it to include the writers of the Old Testament in 2 Peter 1:20-21,
Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God
So, as each Biblical writer wrote with his own style, it’s as if their words were carried along by the Holy Spirit like a twig in a stream, making sure each and every word was true and without error.
All of this shows how the Holy Spirit relates to the truth.
Next, we need to look at how the Holy Spirit relates to you.
This is what Jesus said in regards to you and the Holy Spirit:
I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever (John 14:16)
I will send you the Advocate — the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me. (John 15:26)
In the Amplified version of John 14:16, we read:
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever
Now, when Jesus said the words “another Helper”, he meant that having the Holy Spirit come alongside of you is the exact same as having Jesus, Himself, coming alongside you. By sending the Holy Spirit, He sent Himself. That is what He meant by His word for “another”.
That is also how He is able to say in Matthew 28:20,
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Or how He promised that HE would come to us in John 14:18,
I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.
He will send the Holy Spirit – another of the same kind – a person with a mind (Romans 8:27), a will (1 Corinthians 12:11), and emotions (Ephesians 4:30), just like Jesus Christ. This goes to the heart of and validates our Trinitarian Theology. The Holy Spirit is exactly like Jesus, who is exactly like the Father. An the three are each equally God.
Jesus emphatically affirmed this in the Upper Room Discourse:
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! (John 14:9)
So, when Jesus said this just two paragraphs later:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another [another of the same kind of] Advocate, who will never leave you. (John 14:16)
In these verses, Jesus proclaims that the three (Father, Son, and Spirit) are all equal – the Holy Trinity. This gives me great pause, as it did to Paul when he wrote 1Corinthians 6:19-20,
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.
Just as God took up residence in the Temple in Jerusalem, so now – in the absence of any Temple in Jerusalem – He has taken up His residence IN YOU! He lives in you. If that doesn’t boost your self-esteem, I don’t know what will!
And when Jesus said that He would send us an Advocate, Comforter, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby… he promised that we would never, ever be alone!
He has come. He has come for us. He will never leave us. He will forever be our Comforter, just as if Jesus was with us every minute of every day!