Today we reach the high point of what we now know as the Upper Room Discourse. As we have already seen Jesus has promised to send a Counselor/Advocate to help all those who are his followers, and that Counselor/Advocate is the Holy Spirit. And today we are finally going to see the work that the Holy Spirit has been sent to do.
“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.—15:25-26
Jesus promised the disciples he would send the Holy Spirit to help them. Jesus placed the Spirit’s witness and the disciples’ witness side by side. The Spirit would testify to Jesus through the disciples.
“All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.—16:1-11
There was to be no doubt the disciples would experience persecution. Jesus told them about it ahead of time so they would be surprised when it took place. He delineated for them some ways they would be persecuted. The persecutors would not know either the Father or Jesus. Jesus told them these things because he would soon leave them. He had not told them earlier, because he had been there with them to protect them. Jesus then returned to the theme of his departure. He encouraged the disciples by telling them that, despite his leaving, he would send the Spirit to turn their grief into joy and give them peace in time of trouble.
After Jesus reminded the disciples that he was returning to the Father, he chastened them for not asking where he was going. Earlier Peter had asked this question, but he was less concerned about where Jesus was going then why he couldn’t accompany him. Jesus knew the disciples were overwhelmed with sorrow, so he reminded them that they would not be abandoned. He would send the Advocate (the Holy Spirit) to them. The Holy Spirit would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgement. Verses 9-11 clarify verse 8. The imagery is a courtroom where the Holy Spirit is depicted as a prosecuting attorney, and the world is proven guilty. The Spirit will convict the world concerning sin because it does not believe in Jesus. The world will be convicted of a “sham righteousness” because good deeds apart from commitment to Christ cannot merit salvation. The world will be convicted concerning judgement because the world’s judgement against Jesus is wrong: at the cross Jesus defeated Satan.
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”—16:12-15
The emphasis shifts from the Spirit’s role in the world as a prosecutor to his role among the disciples. The disciples could not take much more instruction now. The Spirit of truth (the Holy Spirit) would guide the disciples into the truth. Jesus made this absolutely clear in the next few verses by saying the same thing in different ways. The Spirit would continue Jesus’ revelatory work. This promise was directed specifically to Jesus’ disciples and found its particular fulfillment in their writing of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit would not speak or act independently but would glorify Jesus by drawing out the implications of his teaching to his disciples.
Now let’s focus our attention on verses 7 and 8, which say, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.”
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, when God would generously send his Spirit to fill, give power and live through his followers, would occur only after Christ left the earth. The first outpouring took place on the day of Pentecost. The events of that day marked the beginning of the age of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s main role with respect to promoting the message of Christ is to “convict the world.” The term “convict” means to expose, refute and convince. And we see three big things about this “conviction” that comes from the Holy Spirit.
- The Spirit’s work of convicting operates in three areas:
- Sin—The Holy Spirit will expose sin and unbelief in order to awaken in an individual a consciousness of guilt and a need for forgiveness. Conviction also makes clear the tragic results of rejecting Christ and persisting in sin, going our own way apart from God). After experiencing the Spirit’s conviction, each person must make a choice about Christ. The hope is that this leads to true repentance and a turning to Jesus as Savior and Lord—the forgiver of one’s sins and the leader of one’s life.
- Righteousness—The Spirit convinces the spirit of a person that Jesus is the Son of God who came and showed the right way to God. He reveals that a right relationship with God does not depend on our own good works or efforts, but on Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. If we accept his forgiveness and turn over the rule of our lives to him, his Spirit will empower us to what is right by God’s standards and to overcome the ungodly ways and temptations of the world.
- Judgement—The Spirit convinces people of Satan’s defeat, which Christ secured and guaranteed by his death on the cross for our sin. The Spirit also makes people aware of God’s present judgment of the world and the future judgement of the entire human race, including each individual’s personal accountability to God.
- The Spirit’s work of convicting people of sin, righteousness and judgment will be evident in all who are baptized in the Holy Spirit and truly living as Spirit-filled believers. Christ himself, filled with the Spirit, testified to the world that “what it does is evil” and called people to repent and turn to God. John the Baptist, “filled with the Holy Spirit” from birth, exposed the sin of the Jewish people and commanded them to change their ways. Peter, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” preached a message that convinced 3,000 people of their sin and guilt, calling them to turn from their sin and receive God’s forgiveness.
- Any minister or church that is afraid to expose sin and call for repentance, which is a change of attitude toward God that causes a person to turn from sin and to surrender to God’s purposes, and Godly living is not directed by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 clearly states that God’s presence in a congregation will expose the sin of unbelievers, the secrets of their hearts, their God-defying ways, so that they can experience the Spirit’s conviction and Christ’s salvation.
Now finally let’s skip ahead to verses 13 and 14, which say, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.”
The convicting work of the Holy Spirit is not only directed toward those who do not know Christ, but it also operates in and among Christians to teach, correct and guide them into truth. And we see two big things about how the Holy Spirit operates in and among those are believers.
- The Holy Spirit also will speak to God’s people about sin, the righteousness of Christ and the judgment of evil in order to:
- Develop within them a Christlike character and a desire to live by his standard of right and wrong.
- Guide them in their understanding of and ability to live by the truth.
- Honor Christ through their lives.
In these ways, the Holy Spirit works within Christ’s followers to develop and reflect Christ’s holiness in their lives.
- If Spirit-filled Christians reject the Spirit’s guidance and convicting work, and if they do not “by the Spirit…put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13), then they are setting themselves against God and will be judged for that choice. Only those who receive and respond to the truth and are “led by the Spirit of God” are true “sons (or daughters) of God” (Romans 8:14), who are able to experience the benefits of the Spirit’s life within them. Sin hinders and destroys the life and work of the Holy Spirit within the believer.
The Holy Spirit reveals to believers more about Jesus. Through the Spirit, Christians experience Jesus’ presence, love, forgiveness, character, power, spiritual gifts, healing and all other benefits of our faith and relationship with Christ. The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to himself, but he brings honor to Christ. The Spirit makes us more aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives, which will strengthen our faith and inspire us to love, obey and worship God with more passion. And we will pick up from here tomorrow as we come to the end of Jesus’ final words of wisdom to his disciples before his arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Kings 18, Acts 11, Psalm 135:1-21 and Proverbs 17:12-13
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