If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
There is such richness and fullness in this particular section of John’s gospel that I hesitate to try to take it up in one address, and yet it is all so intimately linked together that I feel as though it would be doing violence to it if divided.
There are a number of things that require to be emphasized. First of all, we have the promise of the Comforter. That word Comforter is interesting. It is used to translate a Greek word, Parakletos, which is a compound word meaning one who comes to the side of another that is a helper in time of need. In 1 John 2:1 we have advocate, which is exactly the same word in the original.
There is a sweetness and preciousness about that word Comforter that appeals to the heart. After all, we cannot use any other word in our language that would so adequately represent the Greek word, for the Paraclete is in very truth the Comforter. Our English word Comforter is also a compound. “Comforter” comes from two Latin words—con, and fortis, the one meaning “to be in company with,” and the other “to strengthen,” so that actually the Comforter is one who strengthens by companionship. That is one of the great ministries of the Holy Spirit. The Paraclete is one who comes to your side to help, to give aid, and so the word is properly used. An attorney-at-law, or an advocate, is one who comes to help you in your legal difficulties, and the Holy Spirit is all this. He has come from heaven, as promised by our blessed Lord, to assist us in every crisis, in every time of difficulty that may arise in our Christian lives—He strengthens by His companionship.
Let us notice how definitely the Lord Jesus points out, or insists upon, the personality of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Consider the last part of verse 17: “But ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” And again, the previous verse, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”
Our Lord would never have used this masculine pronoun if He did not mean us to understand that just as God the Father is a person, and God the Son is a person, so God the Holy Spirit is a person—three persons in one God. I emphasize this because I am afraid many real Christians, otherwise sound and orthodox enough, have very imperfect thoughts in regard to the Holy Spirit. So often we hear people speaking of the Holy Spirit as “It,” and it is perfectly true that in Romans 8 we read: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (v. 16). But that is because in Greek the word for “Spirit” is in the neuter, and, therefore, a neuter pronoun goes with it. But in conveying it exactly in English it might have been rendered: “The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
What the Lord Jesus teaches is that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal influence, and above all, the Holy Spirit is not simply a wave of emotion pouring through the heart and mind of a man, but the Holy Spirit is a divine person. Just as God the Father sent the Son, and the Son had a certain ministry to perform for thirty-three wonderful years in this world, so now the Father and the Son have sent the Holy Spirit. He has been performing His ministry for something like nineteen hundred marvelous years, in which the gospel of the grace of God has been going out into all the world, working miracles and transforming the lives of men and women everywhere it has been received in faith.
Then, notice the dispensational distinction that the Lord makes here in regard to the Spirit’s ministry. He says, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (v. 17).
Note that expression: “He dwelleth with you.” That was true all through the centuries before that wonderful day of Pentecost when the Spirit of God came down to form the church of the new dispensation and to indwell all believers. In all past centuries the Holy Spirit was working in the world and He dwelt with believers. The apostle Peter tells us how Noah preached by the Spirit while preparing the ark. The Holy Spirit was with the patriarchs in their particular dispensation. The Holy Spirit was with the people of God in the wilderness in the days of Moses, and all through the legal dispensation He was with the saints on earth. David prayed, “Take not thy holy spirit from me” (Ps. 51:11)—a prayer very appropriate for the age and dispensation in which he lived, but not an appropriate prayer for Christians today, for Jesus said, “When He is come He will ‘abide with you for ever.’“ But in the Old Testament dispensation the Holy Spirit came and abode upon people, wrought in and through them, and with them. “He has been with you.” That was true particularly when Jesus was here on earth because the Holy Spirit was given without measure to Him.
Now Jesus looks forward into the new age, the new dispensation, which was to begin at Pentecost, and He says, “He… shall be in you.” And this is the glorious distinctive truth of the dispensation in which we live. The Holy Spirit in this age dwells in every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Upon your believing, “ye were sealed with that holy spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13). It can now be said, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). That does not mean that if any man have not the disposition of Christ he is none of His, but the apostle there is speaking of the person, the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in this age of grace we do not need to go to God and ask Him to give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us. He has sealed us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. What we do need, and need very much, is to recognize the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to have His way in our hearts and lives that we may be filled with the Spirit and controlled by Him.
Then, notice that the Holy Spirit dwelling within makes Christ real to us. The Lord Jesus Christ was going away, but He said, “I will not leave you comfortless [orphans]: I will come to you” (John 14:18). He was coming Himself in the Spirit to dwell in the believer. “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me” (v. 19). They would see Him by faith. They would recognize His presence by faith. We are told that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith, and “at that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (v. 20).
Notice the intimate union of believers with the members of the Godhead—“Ye in me, and I in you.” As we walk in obedience to Him He says He will manifest Himself to us in a precious and wonderful way. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (v. 21).
Judas, not Iscariot, but Judas the faithful apostle, did not understand this, and he inquired, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (v. 22). Jesus replied, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (v. 23). In other words, the obedient believer enjoys communion with the Father and the Son in the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings [that is, the disobedient one]: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me” (v. 24). Notice two things dwelt on here. I go back to verse 15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Now verse 23 again: “If a man love me, he will keep my words.” What is the difference between keeping Christ’s commandments and keeping His words? Well, there are a great many things concerning which our Lord has spoken very definitely, either personally or by the Holy Spirit, a great many things in which He has revealed His will very clearly, showing us just exactly what He would have us do and how to live. Take, for instance, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world… For all that is in the world … is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
A Christian cannot go after the things of the world and love the world without going into the path of disobedience, because there is a very definite command concerning this from the Spirit of God. Or again: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). There you have a very distinct command of the Spirit of God.
Now Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” So as we search our Bibles, we see where the Lord has expressed His will, either personally, as in the Gospels, or by the Spirit, as in other parts of the New Testament, and the obedient believer gladly walks in accord with what is there written. When he gets a direct command from the Lord he says, “It is not for me to argue nor to reason about it. As a Christian, for me it is to do what my Master tells me.”
But the Lord Jesus goes even farther than this. “If a man love me, he will keep my words.” What does He mean by that? This is more than just keeping a direct commandment. I will try to illustrate. Here is a young girl whom we will call Mary, a loved daughter of a widowed mother. She is attending school, and the mother is considerate. She knows that Mary has a lot of heavy lessons and responsibilities, and so tries not to put upon her any more work at home than is necessary. But as a wise mother she realizes that her daughter should have certain duties to perform, so she says, “Daughter, you can look after your own room and hang up your own clothes.” (You know some daughters do not.) “And I will expect you to do thus-and-so.”
Mary loves her mother, so she obeys her. She is about to leave her room for school one morning and notices that things are in an untidy state. “Mother says I must always make up my room before I leave. I may be late, but I shall have to fix up my room.” She must keep her mother’s command in order to be an obedient girl. So she tidies up her room and then runs off to school with a light heart.
One day Mary has her heart set on going out for a game of tennis in the afternoon as soon as she returns from school, so she hurries home. Entering the house she hears her mother talking to a neighbor and happens to hear her say, “Oh, dear, I feel so badly. I have company coming this evening. I’ve had such a sick headache all day and have the dinner all to prepare, and I’m hardly able to do it.” Then Mary says, “What is it, Mother? You have the dinner to get, and you’re not feeling well? Mother, you go and lie down. I’ll peel the potatoes, put the meat on, and get everything ready.” But mother says, “You had planned to meet your friends and play tennis this afternoon. Don’t let me keep you from it.” But Mary answers, “Why, Mother, I wouldn’t be happy playing tennis knowing that you are sick with all this work to do. It’s because you need me that I want to do this for you.”
Do you see the difference? In the morning Mary kept her mother’s commandment, now she is keeping her word. She realizes, from what her mother said, how glad she would be to have somebody help, and says, “It’s my privilege. I would rather help my mother than spend my time in pleasure.” And so off comes the coat and on goes the apron, and Mary is in the kitchen keeping her mother’s word.
With the Christian it is not always a matter of getting a definite command. He reads his Bible, and as he reads he sees that God has expressed His mind in such a way that the obedient Christian can discern what the will of the Lord is. So he is glad to keep His word and thus render devoted service.
The last thing I want to dwell on is found in verse 26. The blessed Holy Spirit is the power for all this, the revealer of God’s truth, and through Him the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is now the teacher, for Jesus said, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
That is His special ministry to the people of God as they go through this scene. It means far more to sit down over the Bible and have the Holy Spirit open up its precious truths, than to have some kind of an ecstatic thrill in an exciting meeting. There are many Christians who spend a lot of time looking for thrills. They think when they become excited or stirred up in a meeting that such an experience is a special manifestation of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The fact of the matter is that the great ministry of the Spirit is to take of the things of Christ and reveal them to us, to open up His truth, to make His holy Word clear and plain and real to our souls. The more we read this Word in dependence on the teaching of the Holy Spirit, the more it will be opened up to us and the more precious it will become.