The Promise of God's Purpose (John 15:26, 27)
Topic: John Passage: John 15:26–15:27
The Spirit of Promise
The Promise of God's Purpose
John 15:26, 27
February 1st, 2009
Way of Grace Church
I. The Third Person
We, as a church, have often sung together the words of the well known hymn:
Holy, Holy, Holy; merciful and mighty! God in three persons, blessed Trinity."
Three persons, but only one God. Three persons coexisting eternally in tri-unity. Jesus listed those three persons at the very end of His earthly ministry when he told his followers to "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..."
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we think of these three we might remember the Father, and how He sent His Son in love. We think of His voice from heaven when Jesus was baptized. We think of how Jesus prayed to Him and how Jesus described the love and glory they shared before the creation of the world. We think of how Jesus cried out to Him on the cross.
Or we might think of the Son, and how he become flesh and dwelt among us; how he reached out to the hurting and broken. We might think of how He spoke the words of life, how He washed His disciples feet, or how He agonized in pray for them in the hours before His death. We might think of how He gave Himself for us on the cross, or how he rose victorious from the grip of death.
But when we think of the third person, the Spirit, what comes to mind? There are hardly any episodes or narratives in which we see the Spirit explicitly revealing His desires. The Spirit explicitly speaks no more than a handful of words throughout the entire Bible. In fact, unlike the Father and Son, there is no circumstance in which we really get to know this person Scripture calls the "Holy Spirit" or the "Spirit of God" or the "Spirit of the Lord."
So who is He? What role does He play as God in the plan of God?
This morning we begin the first part of a four part series entitled, "The Spirit of Promise". What I'd like to do in this study is attempt to summarize the work of the Holy Spirit as we see that work revealed in the New Testament.
II. The Spirit in the Old Testament
Now before we dive into our main passage this morning, we need to do a quick review of what the Old Testament tells us about the Holy Spirit. In fact, the Old Testament only uses the title Holy Spirit three times. He is most often called "the Spirit of Yahweh", or the "Spirit of God".
The Spirit in the Old Testament seems to function primarily as the means by which God accomplished His purposes in the world. The Spirit creates, He recreates, He empowers, He transports, He gives revelation, He gives skill, He anoints, He signifies God's favor.
He is described in the Old Testament as "coming upon" or "falling upon" or "filling" those whom God has chosen or ordained for His purposes.
But in contrast to these kinds of temporary and limited and selective empowerments, the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Joel, all spoke of a future time when God would pour forth His Spirit on the house of Israel, in fact, "on all flesh". As God announced through Ezekiel:
"And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (36:27)
III. The Passage: "He Will Bear Witness about Me" (15:26, 27)
And so when we come to the New Testament, we find John the Baptist declaring, "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Matthew 3:11)
In the first three books of the NT, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we find the Holy Spirit working in very similar ways to what we see in the Old Testament. He is an agent of creation, of power, of inspiration, and anointing. But it also becomes clear that just as Jesus has come to fulfill the promises of God for a new age, the OT promises about the Spirit are being fulfilled or about to be fulfilled because of Christ.
But it is not until the fourth book of the NT, the fourth Gospel, it is not until John's Gospel that we discover in detail the new way in which the Spirit of God will be working in the world and among God's people.
So turn with me this morning to John 15:26, 27. Listen to what Jesus declares to His disciples in the upper room, after their last supper together, only hours before His horrible death on a Roman cross. He says:
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
In talking about this "Helper", it's clear that Jesus is referring to the "Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father". The term "Helper" here is the Greek word, paracletos. It means "one who is called alongside of another", that is, in order to help the other.
We can't forget that earlier in John's Gospel, Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
John also tells us in chapter 7 that, On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, asï»¿ the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' " 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
So while it's clear from the other Gospels that the Holy Spirit was active in the ministry of Jesus, there is some sense in which the Spirit was still "to be given", in order to enable the new birth Jesus spoke of in John 3.
But here in John 15, the Spirit of God is spoken of in the most explicitly personal language ever used in Scripture. HE is the "Helper". Jesus introduced Him in this way on chapter earlier in John 14. He said:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper [Jesus being the first "Helper"]. to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you." (John 14:15-17)
Again something radically new is about to take place; the very thing spoken of by the Old Testament prophets. The Spirit of God will not only be with God's people. He will be in God's people. All of them, all of the time.
But what we need to see this morning is what Jesus says about this Helper; what Jesus tells us about HOW, in fact, he will help us.
What Jesus reveals here in John 15:26 about the role, about the work of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth, is that when He comes, "he will bear witness about me" [about Jesus].
What Jesus has given us here is a truth about the Holy Spirit that points us to the ultimate role of the Holy Spirit in the purposes of God. But what does Jesus mean when He says that the Spirit will "bear witness about" Him?
Well there are several passages within this upper room, table-time teaching that Jesus is giving His disciples, several passages that help us better understand the role of the Spirit in bearing witness to Jesus.
A. His Witness to the Words of Christ (14:25, 26)
Look first with me, one chapter earlier, in John 14:25, 26. Listen to what Jesus tells his disciples here:
"These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you."
It's clear from verse 26 that the Spirit will bear witness to Jesus by bringing the words of Jesus to the minds of His followers. The Spirit of truth will remind them of the truth revealed by Jesus, the truth about Jesus.
B. His Witness to the Work of Christ (16:7-11)
But look as well at chapter 16. Look at verses 7-11. Jesus tells them:
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. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Notice how "sin and righteousness and judgment" from verse 8 are all explained in terms of their relationship to Jesus.
What Jesus is telling them here is that the Holy Spirit will bear witness to the world about the ministry or work of Jesus. When the truth about Jesus is declared, if there is any conviction about sin, or about the lordship of Jesus, or about the victory of Jesus, that conviction will come because of the work of the Helper, the Spirit.
John 12 confirms that the talk of "judgment" in 16:11 is directing us back to the cross. In 12:31-33, Jesus said:
Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31-33)
So the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truth about Jesus and His sacrificial work by convicting men and women of that truth.
C. His Witness to the Will of Christ (16:12-15)
But if we continue into verses 12-15 of chapter 16, we see another way in which the Holy Spirit bears witness to Christ. Jesus declares in 16:12...
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
What we learn here is that, according to Jesus, these disciples need to understand more about the truth that Jesus was sent to reveal. There is more to learn, but as verse 12 confirms, "you cannot bear them [my words] now".
But the Holy Spirit will bear witness to the will of Christ. His role is to bring glory to God's son by taking what belongs to the Son and declaring these things to Jesus' followers. "Whatever he hears he will speak".
IV. Sent to Showcase the Son
So here, in what is probably the most extensive treatment of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures; here in this passage that serves as hinge between the Old Testament and New, in this passage which lays the groundwork for the new work of the Spirit, here in John 14, 15, and 16, we discover a critical truth.
The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, this Spirit who is fully God, has been sent by the Son in order to showcase the Son.
Now, this is an important truth for many reasons, one of which has to do with the thinking that has crept into many churches in the last fifty or sixty years. In many churches it became fashionable to speak of the Holy Spirit as "neglected". There was a new emphasis on the Spirit. In many churches, especially many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, the Holy Spirit became the focus of the teaching, the conversations, the meetings.
Now in other churches, the Spirit was NEVER talked about, which is also a mistake. But the issue is not whether or not we talk about Him. It's whether we talk about Him the way the Bible talks about Him.
And as we see here in John, the Spirit's role is not to showcase Himself. He was not sent to be worshipped. He was not sent to be sung to or prayed to. He was not sent to be improperly emphasized. We don't see that in Scripture. He was sent to emphasize Jesus.
Some will say, "Well, if the Holy Spirit is God, shouldn't He be treated as God?" And of course, He should, but according to what God has revealed, not according to our deductions and our systematic reasonings and our logic.
Just as we talked about in regard to the Spirit's work in the Old Testament, the Spirit is the means by which God accomplished His purposes in the world. God the Spirit is accomplishing God the Father's purposes set in motion by God the Son. In this way, God is fully glorified.
Think about it this way. Imagine there is famous theater owned by a set of talented brothers who are identical triplets. One is a talented writer and producer, the other a talented actor, and the third a talented stage manager. The job of the stage manager is to make sure the curtain is pulled back, and the stage is set, and the programs are printed, and that the star is in the spotlight. And when the lead actor, the second brother is shining in the spotlight, then glory is given to the first brother whose creativity was on display in the second brother on stage. But none of it was possible without the third brother, even though He is hardly ever seen.
The fame of the theater is the fame of the three brothers. They are renown because of their collaboration, because of their complimentary talents.
Now obviously that analogy fails in many ways to capture the complexity of our Triune God, but I'm simply trying to capture the heart of what we learn in John about the role of God the Spirit in relation to God the Son.
When Jesus is shining in the spotlight, because of the Holy Spirit's work, God the father ultimately receives the glory. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Now we need to go back to our main text for this morning because we have not talked about the last verse there. Let's read it again. John 15:26, 27:
"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning."
Did you see the connection there between verses 26 and 27? Yes, the Spirit will bear witness about Jesus, but so will the disciples. In fact, based on what we've already seen in John, it is the Spirit that enables the disciples to bear witness about Jesus.
Remember what Paul told the Corinthians: Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:3)
Listen, the promise of Jesus for those who would believe in Him, trust Him, was not simply that the Spirit would dwell with us, but that he would be in us. God in us.
And if the Spirit of God is in you, He will accomplish His work through you. He will bear witness about Jesus. He will glorify Jesus. He will direct others to Jesus through you. There is no greater evidence of the Spirit of God at work in a person's heart than an indisputable passion for Jesus Christ and the fame of His name.
Is the Spirit doing that work in you? He is the Spirit of Promise. He is the promise of God's purposes through Christ.
When your attention is turned to the greatness of Jesus, when His words ring through your mind, when your will is softened to obey Him, when your desires are set on fire with a passion to make much of Him and go forward in His name, that is the Holy Spirit at work inside you.
In the coming weeks, we will see this overarching, ‘big picture' truth about the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of God enables us [or ‘helps' us] to live in the purposes of God that the Son of God has made possible.
Do you need THE Helper this morning? I know I do. Let's pray together and ask God to give us the faith and humility to submit to the work His Spirit wants to do in us, that work of bearing witness about Jesus, a witness to His words, His work, and His will.
Let's thank God for the Spirit of Promise. Would you pray with me?
More in The Spirit of Promise
March 15, 2009The Promise of God's Power (Ephesians 3:14-21)
February 22, 2009The Promise of God's Perspective (I Corinthians 2:1-16)
February 8, 2009The Promise of God's Purchase (Ephesians 1:13, 14)