On Monday night we continued our study of the Holy Spirit, this time focusing on what Jesus taught his disciples on the last night before he was crucified. Here are the notes:
The Holy Spirit: Bringing God Near Intro:
First here are three scriptures. Note one thing about the Spirit from each of them.
Genesis 1:2 The Spirit was there at the beginning.
Psalm 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Ezekiel 36:25-28 The Spirit will be “in” you
Now, see John 14:15-17.
What we see is that, at the end of his time with them, before he was crucified, Jesus took time to specifically teach his closest followers about the Holy Spirit. Before this, when he had been speaking to crowds, or people who weren’t his followers, he spoke kind of indirectly, like he was trying to entice them to want to know more. Last week we saw that he liked to talk about the Spirit in terms of “new birth”, or “living water”—images and ideas meant to draw people out and engage them. Now, in this passage, he’s hosting a private dinner, on the last night before he was crucified, and he’s directly, explicitly teaching the disciples about the Holy Spirit.
So he tells them that He’s going away, but he’s going to ask the Father, who will send the Holy Spirit, and we learn some things about Holy Spirit here:
- (v.16) The Holy Spirit is “another helper.” (The original word in the Greek New testament is “Parakletos” which means “someone who offers assistance in a situation in which help is needed” (H. Ridderbos))
- (v.16) Once he comes, he’ll never leave.
- (v.17) He’s the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit only deals in reality. He is all about what’s true, and we can assume that means that where lies are—He’s not.
- (.v 17) When he comes, his coming is “in” you. This is crazy. And we might not even get what he means until we look at the contrast right before that statement—Jesus says, “He dwells with you.”
So you have to immediately ask, What did Jesus mean by that? How was the Spirit dwelling with them, right then? Probably we’d say it was in the person of Jesus. The Holy Spirit was in and with Jesus in everything he did. But soon, Jesus says, the Spirit’s going to come in a new way—He’s not just going to be working in Jesus for the disciples to see, He’s going to be in them. That must have rocked them! And once we see that it helps us understand what he means in verse 17 when he says the world can’t receive the Holy Spirit.
He says, “The world cannot receive him, because it doesn’t know him.” That’s interesting. Maybe Jesus means that the world is totally focused on what it can see and touch, and the Spirit (like He said back in John 3) is more like the wind—He’s not directly traceable in materialistic terms. Maybe the world can’t receive the Spirit because he’s the Spirit of truth, and there’s so much commitment to lies. And maybe also it’s connected to the idea of the Spirit being with them in the life and work of Jesus. The Spirit was in and with Jesus in everything he did–which meant that, in those days, if you failed to recognize Jesus for who he was, you were also failing to recognize the Holy Spirit, and if you rejected or opposed Jesus, you opposed the Holy Spirit. Which means that, you have to know Jesus to know the Holy Spirit. It’s similar to when Jesus said in John 5:23: “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” You don’t know God the Father if you don’t embrace Jesus as God the Son. So maybe it’s this simple—when Jesus said that the world can’t receive the Holy Spirit, he was using the word “world” the way John tells us that he typically used it—which was to refer to all those people who rejected him as God’s solution to the world’s problems…and so when people reject Jesus, it turns out that they reject the Holy Spirit too. And someone might hear that and think it’s no big deal, but the more we learn about who the Spirit is, the more tragic this rejection seems.
See John 14:19-23. As Jesus got into talking about these things on that night, he started to get to the heart of the matter. They were getting upset by the fact that he was telling them he was leaving. It made no sense to them how this was going to work without him around, and to make it worse, he kept acting like they should be happy about the whole thing. And the more you read what he was saying, the more it becomes clear that the fact that God was going to send Holy Spirit is the main reason why Jesus thought they should be excited. For instance, notice how he’s trying to say that, even though he’s going away, in another sense he’s not going away. You see it in verse 20, with that “you in me and I in you” language, and in verse 21 when he tells the disciples he will show himself to them, and finally in verse 23, when he says “I and My Father will love the person that loves me, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
So you just have to ask the question: How do Jesus and the Father “come” and “make their home” with us? And even if we haven’t already started to guess the answer, I think if we keep reading we get it…
See John 14:24-26. …So, How do Jesus and the Father “come” and “make their home” with us? Based on verse 26, I think Jesus’ answer is—By the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God’s way of being with us. Gordon Fee wrote, “I am convinced that the Spirit in Paul’s theology was always thought of in terms of the personal presence of God. The Spirit is God’s way of being present, powerfully present, in our lives and communities as we await the consummation of the kingdom of God.”
Now this is where we could stop and do a whole study on the way God is God—he is god in three persons, Father, Son and Spirit in total unity of being. So Jesus would never say that the Spirit is the Father or Jesus. But…wherever the Spirit is, and wherever he goes, all of God is there—so the Son is there, and the Father is there. Or you could say, the Holy Spirit brings Jesus to us—the Spirit is also Jesus’ way of being with us.
And since Jesus promises that the Spirit will be in His followers to, this is why we say that “Jesus is in our hearts.” So, if someone said to you, “how does Jesus live inside you?” The short answer would be—By his Spirit.
But there’s even more in verse 26. Jesus says that when he sends the Holy Spirit, the Spirit “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” So the Holy Spirit is the one who taught the Apostles what they needed to know and helped them remember what they needed to remember about Jesus. This is big—the Spirit is not only the way we experience God, He is the One who teaches us about God, and He’s the way we know God. I wonder if Jesus would say that, based on verse 27, the Spirit is also the way God gives us his peace.
And that’s kind of the heart behind what Jesus says in chapter 15—it’s the same truth about God being with us in the Spirit, but with a different focus.
See John 15:17-27. In verse 26 we see that the Spirit doesn’t only teach Jesus’ followers about God, He also, through them, proclaims the truth about Jesus to the world.
Even though, as he says, people will be hating the followers of Jesus and persecuting them, he says they don’t have to worry, because he will send the Holy Spirit, who will be present, in the believers themselves, preaching to the world the truth about Jesus. In other words, Christians can’t expect to have the power of culture, or money, or government on their side, but they must and will have the power of God himself, through the Holy Spirit, on their side.
So the Spirit is God’s way of being present when we’re persecuted and opposed, and when we want to get the message out to people, even though they’re hostile to us because of our association with Jesus. It might seem like if the world is hostile to us, there’s no chance of them listening to our message, but God tells us not to worry, because He’s with us—we have the Spirit. He keeps teaching about all this in chapter 16…
See John 16:7-15.
There’s some more great truth here:
- In v. 7, having the Spirit with us and in us is actually better than having Jesus with us in the flesh.
- In v. 8-11, Jesus tells us that the Spirit doesn’t only impress the power of the message of Jesus on the world, He also convicts (D.A. Carson: “shaming the world and convincing it of its own guilt, thus calling it to repentance.” Ridderbos: “prove guilty.”) So again, it might seem like it would be impossible for the message of Jesus to spread if the world is hostile to Christians, but Jesus tells us that we have divine help—God himself, in the Holy Spirit, will be in us and with us to make powerful impressions on people’s hearts and minds when we live the Christian life in front of them and tell them about Jesus’ message. As pastor Joe sums up these three things Jesus says, the Spirit impresses on the world “what’s wrong, what’s right, and that there’s consequences to our actions.”
- In v. 13, Jesus tells them that the Spirit will be God’s way of being with them to guide them into truth.
- And in v. 14, he says the Spirit will be God’s way of being with them to help them know and honor Jesus.
- So even when things get crazy, and the disorientation of real opposition to the Christian message sets in, Jesus says we don’t need to be afraid, because the Spirit will be God’s power to do his work in the world.
Now read Acts 2:1-4. Here is is. The Spirit comes.
Summing this up:
God isn’t far from us. He hasn’t left us alone. He came and lived among us in human flesh once. And while he did, he promised that he would be with us in a new way, and that would be permanent. Since God is a Trinity—he can do this. The Father can send the Son, and then send the Spirit. Because the Spirit is God, when the Father sends the Spirit, that is God sending, and God coming to live in us. And since God is not divided up, when the Spirit comes, the Father and the Son come too—in the Spirit.
Who does God come to this way? This takes us back to last week’s study—God comes this way to anyone who wants him, receives him, trusts in him. Anyone who sees God in Jesus and in what Jesus did. Anyone who ‘s thirsty, and comes to him to drink— (John 7:37), that is, anyone who trusts Jesus to satisfy the hunger of their soul.
And even though we don’t have Jesus in the flesh with us right now, we do have the Spirit. And the Spirit isn’t just keeping God close, and helping us be more and more acquainted with God, He is also speaking to people who don’t follow Christ—even people we know who are actively hostile to Christ. When we live out the life of God around them, because the Spirit has made us alive and satisfied our thirst, and because he keeps us close to Jesus, he is working through us and our words and actions to bring a good, loving pressure to bear, intense pressure to bear on those who oppose God.
Sometimes we wish we could just see Jesus. But to have the Spirit within and among is better, for now. (The New Earth will have both.)
Paul said (in Acts 19:26-27): “He is not far from every one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being.”
And so Jesus said, “He’s been with you, but he will be in you.”