Compared With Chapters 15 and 16
There are three things quite distinct from each other— conscience, life, and power.
There may be conviction of conscience, as in Herod when he heard John preach; but he was not converted. A man may know he is doing wrong, but this does not give him power against it.
Life, a new spiritual being, is another thing. It gives activity to the conscience. A new nature is there with its feelings, desires, affections, but without power. There will be less peace perhaps than before there was life, because there may have been false peace before. The state is, of course, better than that of the mere natural man: there will be no levity in that state.
The third thing alluded to is the power of the Spirit of God. We must distinguish between gift for service, and the power which gives enjoyment. There will be peace. In order to our having the power, Christ has made peace through the blood of His cross. “There is, therefore, no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” We want this power. It could not be conferred on man in the flesh. Divine righteousness must be there, or God could not put His seal on man. Can God put His seal on a person full of the sense of sin?—in conflict about his sin—say such a state as Peter’s, when he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”? There may be good desires and tenderness of conscience, but it will run into legality, because not as yet resting in the favour of God. These experiences may be all very useful in their place, but they are not peace. We have peace made by the blood of the cross, and divine righteousness wrought out in Christ. I can now look up to God without hiding my sin. The way I come at the sense of the immensity of sin is by the immensity of the grace that has met it.
The reality of the presence of the Holy Ghost, who has come down, and dwells in us, is most important. The Holy Ghost is given as a seal. Christ said, “If I go away, I will send him unto you.” The Comforter brings to me the fulness of His grace, being the witness of accepted righteousness to our hearts. He convicts, or demonstrates, of righteousness, and this righteousness is mine. I stand in it. He convicts the world of sin, of unbelief; but the demonstration to me is of righteousness—righteousness wrought out for me, which God has accepted. Now He is perfectly free to bless.
My thought now is not, I am so full of sin that He cannot bless me; but, God has accepted the righteousness and I stand in it. We are of God, and Christ is made unto us righteousness. We are born of God, and as such we need something to bring to Him. It is all furnished in Christ. There is not only peace as to the past, but I have Christ’s standing in the presence of God. We stand in Christ, the second Man, and have the second Man’s place in virtue of redemption. So sure as I have the first Adam’s place as turned out because a sinner, so I have the last Adam’s place according to the counsels of God in Christ.
At the end of John 17 we have Christ’s righteousness title (v. 22) and His personal title (v. 24), spoken of. He is bound to bless. “I am glorified in them.” He could not bless sin, but now righteousness being perfected, all the purposes of His heart in love can flow out to us, because we are the righteous ones. Whatever the love of God—the righteousness of God— all that by which He stands in the presence of God, because of His work and Person, we have, and are blessed in virtue of it.
The Spirit is the seal and the earnest—the Spirit of holiness —the Spirit of adoption—the Spirit of truth. All that God can give we are made possessors of by the Holy Ghost, and our “bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost.” How do I know Christ is in the Father and myself in Christ? The Holy Ghost has come down, and as Christ said in chapter 14, “In that day,” referring to the present time, “ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” As many as are led by the Spirit are the sons of God.” “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” He makes us the servants of Christ, and all is founded on the work of Christ, but realised by the presence of the Holy Ghost. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you.” He tells them that all they had before, it was a good thing for them to lose, because we have got more by the Holy Ghost being given. Christ’s humiliation, did they understand? “That be far from thee, Lord.” Would a Christian say this now? They could not think what it could mean, that He should die and rise again.
Christ is the object, and the Father’s love too is, but the Holy Ghost is the power by which I see Christ and realise the Father’s love. Christ being gone, and there being nothing visible, my affections are more drawn out and exercised; and this is blessed. He does not say, Blessed are they that have seen and believed, but, “Blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed.” Divine affection for Christ is much more drawn out by Christ being absent, and yet we long to see Him. That part is true too. While we are going through a world always so luring us to forget this blessed One, the Holy Ghost is in us to keep Him the object dear to our hearts.
There are three ways in which the Holy Ghost is spoken of in these three chapters. In chapter 15 Christ is (v. 26) the One who sends; in chapter 14 the Father (v. 26) sends; in chapter 16 He is come as a Person on earth. The difference between chapters 14 and 15 it is important to notice. In Acts 2:33, where the Holy Ghost is given at Pentecost, there was power acting on them. “He hath shed forth this,” etc. That was not all, but very blessed. Christ was to baptise with the Holy Ghost, not with water. And this was fulfilled. Power was given, and this was needed to go through a world of wickedness and unbelief. If you have only to be faithful in witnessing for the Lord one day, you want power/or you would be like Peter in the judgment hall, cursing and swearing. “Ye shall do greater things than these, because I go to the Father,” chap. 14:12. He bestowed these gifts. When Christ is spoken of as giving the Holy Ghost, it is always for service, witnessing for Him; and when this is the subject, reward is spoken of in other places, and the appearing and manifestation of Christ are connected with it.
God said to Christ, “Sit on my right hand till I make,” etc. (Acts 2). The Holy Ghost acts in power till Christ comes in power. Everything will be displayed when He comes in His kingdom. Everything will then be set right j crowns given, etc. Christ is exalted on the right hand of the Father, and received the Holy Ghost afresh as Head of His body, and thence sent Him forth.
This is not the same as chapter 14. True, every word would fall dead; we should have no right word to speak, if the Holy Ghost did not give the thoughts, words, etc. This is all connected with service; but our proper portion we get in chapter 14. There is the very outstreaming of the Father’s love. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” He will not leave you as I must. I cannot stay with you. I am about to work the redemption and am going up on high; but He will come, not merely to make apostles and give power for service, but to remain with you.
It is He who now gives me the consciousness of God’s loving me as He loves Jesus. I have more or less joy, but it never leaves me. I have “the love of God shed abroad in my heart.” How do I know God is love? I have it in me. The proof is that He “sent His Son the propitiation for our sins.” This is what the conscience wants; but as to the enjoyment of it, I have it, because God dwelleth in me and I in God. “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another,” etc. It is proved in the word that God is love, by what He has done, and you have it in your hearts. Christ said,” I have declared thy name unto them (the men which thou hast given me out of the world), and will declare it.” I have the relationship; I have the Spirit of adoption, crying, Abba, Father. I have the consciousness of being in the same relationship as Christ Himself is. “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father” —I have and know the blessedness of His Person; no one could be in the Father who was not God: He was God—“and ye in me and I in you.” The reality of that I know by the Comforter dwelling in me. Then I have done with myself. When I think of my blessing, I think of Christ—a deliverance from self. That is our place in Christ, and we are conscious of it too, because the same Spirit who is in Him is in me as a believer.
The Holy Ghost, while He is the Spirit of power, is, then, He who gives me the consciousness of my blessing. This is not merely union with Christ, but Christ in us. “I in you.” All the blessedness in Him is in us. What is in me? Christ is in me. “Because I live,” He says, “ye shall live also” All that He has is mine. This has a threefold bearing on our hearts. There is the dwelling in the consciousness of God’s love in my soul. Then I look back and feed on the humbled Christ. What love in Him! What divine perfectness! What a thing to feed upon! There are streams in the saints, but there was the thing itself. Divine love was moving through this world. “I am the living bread come down from heaven.” “Do this in remembrance of me.” I remember, because it is past, as to fact; not as to my affections, but as to the fact. “He that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” There is everything in Christ which the heart of man can assimilate.
There there is another thing. I am to be in the same glory with Him. What can I ask Him for more? He is God, and He must make us as happy as Himself. He says, “My peace I give unto you.” Not something like it, but the thing itself— “my peace.” Thus meanwhile He fills one’s heart with the joy we are to have by-and-by. In chapter 14 there is nothing about being heirs and joint-heirs—the place in glory, but all as children are to be where He is. “If I go away, I will come again … that where I am there ye may be also.” It is not here reward for service when He comes, that is spoken of, but to be received to Himself. If we have found delight in Him here, we are going to be with Him for ever. “If it were not so, I would have told you.” This world is not good enough for them, though He has manifested His grace here. He gives the assurance of His coming again to associate their hearts with the Father’s love.
If His love is not filling my heart, I shall go to some vanity in a shop to satisfy me: my heart will get into my business. If my spirit is wrapped up in the love of Christ, there will be rivers of water flowing out. There is no effort in shewing forth the love of God, if my soul is dwelling in it. If I am weak, and try to lift up this table, I make a great effort; if I am strong, it needs no effort. So, if there is power through love dwelling in us, there is no effort. If I am not in communion, it is for the Holy Ghost to speak to my conscience, instead of using me. If I get knowledge merely to communicate it, I shall be as dry as a mill-stone. When we enjoy Him for His own sake, it flows forth to others. So as to His coming again.
The Holy Ghost is come, and, associating our hearts with Himself, takes us up victorious. As He has overcome the world, so have we. The victory is gained; and the way we enjoy the victory now is by the Holy Ghost taking of these things and associating our hearts with Him on high. The Holy Ghost associates our hearts with the Christ to whom we are united. This makes the heart perfectly free.
What a blessed thing that there is this living power of the Holy Ghost for the saints; and in this poor, tried, and oppressed world to be able to bring in streams of God’s love! This can only be as the Holy Ghost is the witness in us, and as He associates us with the perfect love of God.