The Promise of God's Purpose (John 15:26, 27)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: John 15:26–15:27
I. The Third Person
Think with me for a moment about those words we sang at the outset of our time together:
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…” (Matthew 28:19)
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we think of these three, I would daresay it's easy to think of stories or passages describing the work of the Son and the glory of the Father, or the prayers of the Son and the plan of the Father, or the miracles of the Son and the power of the Father. There is no lack of beloved passages involving the Trinity's first and second persons.
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 are revisiting a four part series I first taught over a decade ago, a series entitled, “The Spirit of Promise”. I believe there couldn't be a better time to look back and consider the means by which God works in and through his people. In a time when there are so many hard things around us, its critical we understand God's power within us; power that wonderfully comes from above us.
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. In the Hebrew Bible 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, and 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, 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.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
III. The Passage: "He Will Bear Witness about Me" (15:26, 27)
In light of that, consider how the New Testament begins. John the Baptist declares, “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.” (Matt. 3:11)
In the first three books of the NT (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), we find the Holy Spirit working in some very similar ways to what we saw in the Old Testament. 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, John’s Gospel, that we discover in detail the new way in which the Spirit 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 (and please hear this as disciples... Jesus declares this) 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.  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 or support the other.
You may recall that earlier in John 3:5, 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.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  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, as we read here, there is some sense in which the Spirit was still “to be given”. Why? 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”. Isn't that wonderful title? Is that a hopeful and comforting title? Jesus introduced Him in this way on chapter earlier in John 14. He said:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  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)
Jesus indicates here that something radically new is about to take place. This is 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 do you think? How does this “Helper” help?
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 Spirit that points us to the ultimate role of the 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 from this upper room teaching time that help us better understand the role of the Spirit in bearing witness to Jesus. Let's quickly look at those:
First, the Spirit bears witness to the words of Christ. 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.  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 and the truth about Jesus.
Second, the Spirit bears witness to the work of Christ. Look at 16:7-11. Jesus tells them:
...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.  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;  concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;  concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
Did you notice how “sin and righteousness and judgment” from verse 8 are all explained in terms of their relationship to Jesus? The 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 over the “ruler of this world”, the devil (John 12:31), that conviction will come because of the work of the Helper, the Spirit.
Third, the Spirit bears witness to the will of Christ. If we continue on to 16:12-15, 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.  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.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The disciples needed to understand more about the truth that Jesus was sent to reveal. There was 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 a passage that really serves as a hinge between the Old and New Testaments, 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 Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the Spirit of God, this Spirit who is God, has been sent by the Father in order to showcase the Son.
Why is this point so important? Well, in many churches, over the past 100 plus years, it became fashionable to speak of the Holy Spirit as “neglected”. So there was a new emphasis on the Spirit. In many churches, especially many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, the Holy Spirit seemed to become the focus of the teaching, the meetings, the experience.
Now it was certainly true that in some churches, the Spirit was NEVER talked about; which, of course, is also a mistake. But the issue is not whether or not we talk about Him. It’s whether we talk about Him in the same the way the Bible talks about Him. And how does the Bible talk about the Spirit? 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, the stage is set, the programs are printed, and 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 creative genius, who's writing and producing talents are on display. But none of it is 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.
So what does this mean for you, if you are a follower of Jesus? Well, 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)
The promise of Jesus for those who would 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 in you. He will bear witness about Jesus to you. He will glorify Jesus in you. I think we can say this: 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... in you! When your attention is turned to the grace and greatness of Jesus, when you long for his incredible riches in light of your desperate condition, when Christ's words inform AND transform your mind, when your will is softened to obey the Son, 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.
And let's not forget that final verse from our main passage: And you also will bear witness... Yes, the Spirit will bear witness about Jesus, but so will Jesus' disciples. In fact, based on what we’ve already seen in John, it is the Spirit that enabled the disciples, and still enables disciples, to bear witness about Jesus.
Do you need THE Helper this morning? Do you need him to bear witness in your heart today; to bear witness to the goodness and greatness of Jesus? Are you taking Christ for granted? Does the Good News seem like 'old news' to you? Are you imitating the world more than you are Jesus? Are you more Christianity-centered than Christ-centered? Do you need the Spirit to restore to you the joy of your salvation? I know I do, in all these ways.
Would you pray with me now in light of that need? Would take a moment and ask God, with a sincere and hungry heart, to give you the faith and humility to submit to the work his Spirit wants to do in you, that work of bearing witness to 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 (2020)
June 28, 2020The Promise of God's Power (Ephesians 3:14-21)
June 21, 2020The Promise of God's Perspective (I Corinthians 2:1-16)
June 14, 2020The Promise of God's Purchase (Ephesians 1:13, 14)