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Teaching series from John

The "Advantage" of the Holy Spirit

John 14-16

Teaching t05635


Remind of setting: Jesus' final instructions (13:31-16:33) to his disciples before his departure. We will be studying this passage thematically rather than verse by verse. In this intimate setting, he makes two key points:

He is departing. Because of their pre-conceptions about the Messiah, they have never been willing to accept that he must really die. Now, as Jesus confronts them once again about this (read 13:31-33), they finally realize it and sink into speechless despair (read 16:5,6). Their hopes and dreams have been shattered, and the prospect of losing Jesus' personal presence depresses them.

Read 16:7. What an amazing statement! They will be better off after Jesus leaves, because his departure will bring the Holy Spirit. "Helper" (parakletos) is better translated "Advocate" here. As Jesus was the personal Advocate/Representative of the Father, so the Holy Spirit will be Jesus' personal Advocate/Representative. But he will bring to them a level of spiritual reality superior to that which they experienced through Jesus' physical presence.

This same Holy Spirit, with the same superior spiritual resources, is now available to all who believe in Jesus. It is striking to consider the claim that we may enjoy a level of spiritual reality that is superior to that which Jesus' disciples experienced during their three-plus years with him.

Christianity for many has become a MUSEUM to preserve the memory of Jesus' physical presence on earth (ICONS; PICTURES; HOLY LAND TOURS). This is perhaps the main reason why so many view Christianity as an irrelevant anachronism that lacks the spiritual dynamism needed to cope with the modern world.

But Christianity is not about preserving the memory of Jesus' physical presence, nor even his teachings. Christianity is about experiencing the powerful reality of the living Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit--a reality superior even to that which the disciples experienced during Jesus' public ministry.

In his final dialogue with them, Jesus presses this point--and details three specific aspects of this thesis . . .

A Better Relationship With God

In the Old Testament period, God's people did not have direct access to his presence. His personal presence was localized to a certain place (TABERNACLE) which was accessible on only one day a year (DAY OF ATONEMENT), and even then they had to approach him through a human mediator (HIGH PRIEST). This was because of the problem of human sin (explain).

When Jesus came, this changed dramatically. This is why John says "The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we beheld his glory . . . full of grace and truth" (Jn. 1:14). In Jesus, God had become far more accessible to his people. What would it be like to travel with God? What would it be like to have breakfast with God every morning? What would it be like to have God personally comfort and encourage you? This creates a longing in our own hearts . . .

But Jesus says we have the possibility of an even more personal relationship with God than did his disciples!

ACCESS: Read 14:16,17. Even the disciples had to be in the physical presence of Jesus have access to God's personal presence. That's why they were so sad about his departure. But this access will be permanent because the Holy Spirit will be "in" us forever.

This is why Christianity has no holy places, people, or times. This is why it has so little ritual. All of these things, which dominate religion, are evidence of limited access to God. This is why we insist that Christianity is not a religion--it is a relationship with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (ME ON FIRST EASTER).

INTIMACY: As close as Jesus' disciples were to him (he called them his "friends" in 15:15), we can enjoy even greater intimacy with him because of the Holy Spirit. Read 14:18-23.

We can experience relational union with him like that which he experiences with the Father (vs 20,23). We can be delivered from being afraid of God and know him on a personal level (like Jesus) now that we belong to his family ("ABBA" >> Rom. 8:15,16).

We can experience God's love in a way that was unavailable to the disciples during Jesus public ministry (vs 21; see also Rom. 5:5).

Read 14:27 and 16:32,33. We can experience the peace of God--the personal confidence and undergirding that we are in God's loving and powerful care no matter how bad our circumstances (see also Phil. 4:6; Rom. 15:13).

Are you ready to know God personally? All this is available to you--if you put your personal trust in Jesus to forgive your sins and ask him to come into your life (Rev. 3:20).

Next week, we will discuss why many Christians do not experience this level of intimacy with Christ--but let us go on to consider the other advantages of the Holy Spirit . . .

Superior Spiritual Understanding

What? Better than being personally instructed by Jesus? Better than hearing him interpret the Old Testament and reveal new spiritual truth? Better than being able to personally discuss these truths with him? Yes! The point here is not that we receive better spiritual instruction, but that through the Holy Spirit we receive superior ability to understand spiritual truth.

Jesus wasn't surprised by much, but he was surprised by the spiritual denseness of his disciples. After three-plus years of instruction, Peter still asks "Where are you going?" (13:36) Thomas still says "We do not know where you are going. Show us the way." (14:5) Philip still says "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." (14:8) It was like Jesus was sending on AM but they were receiving on FM!

Unless we have the proper spiritual apparatus, we will not be able to personally understand and apply spiritual truth--even though we may be able to rationally comprehend its meaning.

But the Holy Spirit changes this.

Read 14:25,26. While he was with them, all they could do was forget and misunderstand what he taught them. These guys were to be entrusted with writing the New Testament? Not by themselves! The Holy Spirit would supernaturally enable them to recall and explain the meaning and significance of all things pertaining to Jesus.

Read 16:12-15. The Holy Spirit would guide them into all the truth about Jesus. "What is to come" may refer to predictive prophecy (e.g., Revelation), or it may refer to the CROSS (still future). The Holy Spirit would supernaturally enable them to understand and explain the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection. Apart from their writings, Jesus' death is a mere historical fact, and his resurrection is a historical anomaly. How do we know the meaning of this event? By Jesus' explanation of it (e.g., Mk. 10:45), and by the apostles' expounding upon it (e.g., Romans 1-8).

We call this INSPIRATION. The Holy Spirit enabled Jesus' disciples/Apostles to be Jesus' official and authoritative biographers and interpreters. This is unique to the Apostles; this is why only apostolic works are in the New Testament.

But Jesus' promise has a wider application to all Christians, and other passages bear this out. Let's look at 1 Cor. 2.

Read vs 12,13. Vs 13 is about apostolic INSPIRATION. But vs 12 is about ILLUMINATION: God gives the Holy Spirit to all Christians so that we may understand what we have received through the CROSS (context is the "wisdom of God," namely "Christ crucified"). Read vs 14-16. This is why we have the ability to view all of life from God's perspective (spiritual wisdom and discernment), which non-Christians cannot do.

Every true Christian has experienced the illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is what makes the Bible come alive to us with penetrating insight into our lives (Heb. 4:12). This is what is happening when the words of the Bible seem to leap off the page and grab us, saying "This means you!" This is what is happening when people come up after a teaching and say, Who told you I was coming? You were speaking right to me!"

If the Bible is probably boring and unintelligible to you, it may be because you are reading someone else's mail! Receive Christ, and you'll see an amazing difference.

But there is yet another "advantage" of the Holy Spirit we need to know about . . .

More Effective Witness For Christ

To "witness for Christ" is a legal term (martyrion). It means to tell/testify to others what you have come to know and experience concerning Jesus. The disciples did understand that this was their purpose, at least on some level. And they had received unique training for this task. Imagine what it would have been like to have Jesus model evangelism, send you out on training missions, and then debrief you on what you were supposed to learn.

Yet with all of this help, they were not up to the task. Peter boldly declared that he would lay down his life as his witness for Jesus--but he denied him just a few hours later (13:37,38). They were all willing to testify that he had come from God--but in a few hours they would all desert him to save their own skins (16:30-32a). They were willing to witness for him, but they didn't have the power to do it. All who have tried to witness for Christ soon learn this same lesson: effective evangelism requires God's power.

This is precisely what Jesus told them (and us) of this third advantage of the Holy Spirit. In fact, he speaks of a two-fold work of the Spirit in this area.

Sandwiched in between warnings that we will be opposed and persecuted if we witness for him, Jesus makes the promise of 15:26,27 (read). Our decision to open our mouths is important and necessary--God has decided to tell the world about Jesus through human agency. But as we witness, the Holy Spirit will also witness through us. He will give us the boldness and the utterance we need to effectively explain the message of Jesus to others.

But there is more. Read 16:8-11. Vs 9-11 are complicated, but don't miss the main point in vs 8: the Holy Spirit will personally convince people of their need for God's forgiveness and of the truthfulness of the gospel.

This is the most important thing to know when sharing our faith with others. Biblical evangelism isn't difficult; it is impossible. It involves persuasion, rational communication, etc.--but there must be a supernatural dimension that we can never supply on our own. When we step out in faith, depending on the Holy Spirit, he will enable us to share the message of Christ in a way that gets through. All true Christians have experienced this.

We experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit shortly before we received Christ, or we would never have received him (PERSONAL TESTIMONY). The same Holy Spirit is able to convict others of the same thing. And I know those who have not yet received Christ are experiencing this right now . . .

We have experienced the Holy Spirit empowering us with boldness and utterance when we step out in faith (often with weakness and fear and trembling as per 1 Cor. 2:3) to witness to others.


We don't need to preserve the memory of Jesus' physical presence. We need to appropriate the reality of the Holy Spirit! NEXT WEEK, we will study Jesus' instructions on how to do this (Jn. 15:1-12) . . .