The Helper: The Holy Spirit
This passage records Jesus' final instructions to and dialogue with his disciples. It starts in the upper room, where they celebrated Passover and Jesus washed their feet. It continues as they walk through the streets of Jerusalem on their way to Gethsemane. This conversation has two themes:
The first is that Jesus' departure is imminent. Over and over again, he tells them that he will no longer be with them after this evening. As the reality of this comes home to them, they are filled with sadness (read 16:5,6).
The second is that Jesus will send them help (read 16:7). What an amazing statement! They lament his departure because they think they will be worse off, but he says it is to their advantage, they will be better off--because his departure will bring the Helper.
The Helper is the Holy Spirit (16:13; 14:26). The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal spiritual frequency we tune into, or some spiritual force we learn to use--the Holy Spirit is a Person (why "he" as opposed to "it") who thinks, wills, and feels. The Holy Spirit is in fact God, just as the Father and Jesus are God (why Jesus calls him "another Helper of the same kind as me").
Broadly speaking, each of these three Persons plays a specific role in salvation: the Father initiates and oversees it, Jesus actually accomplishes it through his incarnation, death and resurrection--and the Holy Spirit applies it to those who receive it.
This is why Jesus' disciples (and Old Testament believers) did not yet have the Holy Spirit. Before God's Spirit can actually indwell sinful human beings, our sins must first be paid for by God's chosen sacrifice.
The amazing thing is that if we have the Holy Spirit, we can have it better than the disciples did when they enjoyed Jesus physical presence.
This is something you would not guess from many churches. The church I grew up in seemed like a musty museum that was trying to preserve the memory of Jesus physical presence. The pictures, the stories of long ago, the recited creeds and the memorized prayers--all of this communicated to me (at best) a wistful reverence for a long-dead hero, (at worst) an irrelevant anachronism. Nothing like the living dynamism and exciting spiritual reality that I later discovered in others and experienced in my own life. What is the difference? The difference is the Holy Spirit!
In this conversation, Jesus explains three ways in which the Holy Spirit "helps" us to enjoy a spiritual reality superior to that which the disciples enjoyed during Jesus' physical presence . . .
Greater personal intimacy with God
What would it be like to be with God-incarnate for three years? What would it be like to have breakfast with him every morning? What would it be like to have him personally comfort and encourage you? It was a life-changing experience, according to John: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory . . . full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14,17). But as wonderful as that must have been, Jesus told his disciples that they would enjoy even greater personal intimacy with God when the Holy Spirit came (read 14:16-19). Notice why it is better:
Whereas they could enjoy his presence for only three years, they would have the Holy Spirit "forever" (14:16)--free from all limitation of time and space.
Whereas they were only able to be "with" Jesus when in his physical presence, the Holy Spirit would be "in" them/us (14:17; remind of Jn. 7:38 - "innermost being").
Jesus summarizes this intimacy in 14:20,21,23 (read). Through the Holy Spirit, both the Father and Jesus "make their abode" in us. They come to live permanently in our hearts so we can enjoy their loving presence.
This is why there are no holy places or times in New Testament Christianity. We may choose to gather here on Sunday mornings because it is convenient for our schedules, but we have intimate access to God at any time or place.
Through the Holy Spirit's indwelling, we are freed from fear of God to talk with him as "Papa" (Rom. 8:15,16), we experience God's love (Rom. 5:5), and God's hope and peace (Rom. 15:13) that upholds us regardless of our circumstances.
This is a reality so wonderful that if you have experienced it, you know it is priceless beyond words. The older I get and the more I experience the pain and brokenness in this fallen world, the more thankful I am for this work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know how people handle it without him. If you realize you don't have this, God invites you to receive his Holy Spirit today. Not by baptism or confirmation or church membership--but by personally putting your trust in Jesus as your Savior (read Jn. 7:37-39).
Greater understanding of God's message
Jesus was not surprised by much--he walked through life with measured step, ready for what life threw at him. But several times, he expressed surprise and disappointment at the spiritual denseness of his disciples. You can see both in this passage (read 14:4-9). In spite of three years with the world's best instructor, they consistently forgot most of what Jesus taught them and got confused about the part they remembered--especially the most important part of his message (the Cross).
How is it that these same men authored the New Testament, which provides such an accurate record of Jesus' life and teachings, and which has such profound insight into the meaning of his death on the cross? This is a work that has changed the world for good far more than any other!
The explanation is not that they went to seminary in Jerusalem or an ashram in Tibet, or that they generated it from themselves through a regimen of spiritual disciplines. The explanation is that the Holy Spirit became their personal instructor/counselor who gave them greater understanding of God's message.
Read 14:25,26. "All things" does refer to advanced calculus, nuclear physics, the mating habits of orangutans, etc. It refers to "all things" pertaining to Jesus and his mission. He would also supernaturally enable them to recall what he taught.
Read 16:12-14. What they were unable to understand under Jesus' tutelage, the Holy Spirit would make clear--especially meaning of Jesus' death ("what is to come").
This is what we mean when we say that the New Testament is inspired--not that they were so emotionally moved that they wrote beautiful religious speculation, but that the Holy Spirit supernaturally instructed them (and one chosen later--Paul) and enabled them to accurately record his instruction.
We (Christians) don't receive the inspiration of the Holy Spirit today; that's why we don't write scripture. But we do receive supernatural illumination from the Holy Spirit who tutors us to understand what they wrote. Let's look at another passage that speaks of both of these (read 1 Cor. 2:12,13).
The "we" in vs 13 refers to the apostles. The Holy Spirit enabled them to communicate God's thoughts about Jesus through Words that he ultimately selected. This is inspiration.
But the "we" in vs 12 refers to all Christians. The Holy Spirit enables us to understand the meaning and significance and application of his message through the apostles. This is illumination. This is what makes the Bible "come alive" (Heb. 4:12) after you receive Christ.
This is what changes it from an old, dead book that bores us into God's love letter that stimulates a hunger in us to learn it.
This is what enables us to gain a growing grasp of its message instead of remaining like a disjointed, confusing collection.
This is what causes passages to penetrate deeply into hearts to expose, convict, comfort, etc.
This is what explains why certain passages that we have read leap into our consciousness in critical situations to provide insight and guidance.
I don't want to imply that this is instantaneous or without effort on our part (2 Tim. 2:7,15)--but when you have the Holy Spirit, you have a personal Tutor who delights in teaching you God's Word.
Greater effectiveness as Christ's witnesses
Jesus called his disciples to be his witnesses--to testify to others that he was Messiah who was offering salvation to all who believed in him. During their time with him, their effectiveness in this was spotty at best. They didn't want to witness to people of different ethnic backgrounds (Jn. 4), they were embarrassed and confused about the Cross (Matt. 16), they misrepresented his attitude toward those who snubbed him (Lk. 9), they caved in under pressure and denied him (Peter).
Yet after he departed, they led a movement that within 50 years spread to over 1 million people all over the Roman empire and beyond. How did they do this?
Did they discover a Dale Carnegie course on self-confidence and public speaking? No, they never received any additional training.
Did they gain political or military power through governmental involvement? No, they were persecuted by most governments.
Did they create a poll-sensitive, market-driven message that became popular because it flattered human goodness and potential? No, their message was regarded by most as a "stumbling block" and "foolishness."
This may explain the advance of many historical religious movements, but the disciples neither had nor used any of these means.
Their secret was the Holy Spirit (read Acts 1:8). Jesus tells them that the Holy Spirit will enable them to have greater effectiveness in God's mission because he will be the witness who aids their witness. He does this (for us also) in two ways:
Read 15:26,27. He will testify through our witness. He will transform our lives so that others become curious for an explanation. And when we share Christ with others, it won’t be us alone. The Holy Spirit will provide courage, insight, articulation, etc. so that our witness will have far greater impact. Some times we experience this very dramatically; sometimes more subtly--but it is a fantastic experience to step out in faith to share Christ with others, and experience his empowering!
But there is another way the Holy Spirit helps us witness. Read 16:8-11. He will convict non-Christians' hearts of their need for God's forgiveness and of the truthfulness of the gospel.
Every Christian in this room experienced this, or you wouldn’t be a Christian today. I remember this vividly.
Some of you are experiencing this right now. If you are, you need to respond to the Holy Spirit by receiving Christ . . .
Copyright 2004 Gary DeLashmutt