The Holy Spirit in John 14-16

In these passages, we read Jesus’ farewell discourse just before He is about to leave His disciples in His impending arrest, trial, and death. He knows that they will be filled with sorrow, so in His absence, He informs them of how they can express their love for Him. He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” This means that it is not through tears that they will show their love, rather but by keeping His instructions He has given them as recorded in the Gospels. The Lord then continues, saying, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16) This reveals that Jesus can and is willing to pray to the Father to send “another Helper,” or one who is called to the side of another to help. This is very similar to the “advocate” as mentioned in 1 John 2:1, who is Jesus. Therefore, we can understand the “Helper” in this passage to be the Holy Spirit in much the same way, for Jesus calls Him the “Spirit of truth.” (John 14:17a) The Spirit’s teaching is true and His sole purpose is to glorify Christ.

Jesus also says that the world does not know the Spirit: “the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him…” (John 14:17b) This means that even though He convicts men of sin they do not know that it is He. He continues, “but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you He dwells with you and shall be in you.” (John 14:17b) Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon men and dwells “with” them. Since Pentecost, however, now when a person believes in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into that person’s life forever. (See 1 Corinthians 12:13) We cannot pray David’s prayer, “Do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” (See Psalm 51:11) The Holy Spirit is never taken from a true believer, even though we may grieve Him, quench Him, or hinder His work in us or through us.

Next, the Lord continues by assuring His disciples, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) The Lord is promising them that He will not leave His disciples alone, but will return. He does indeed come to them after His resurrection - in the person of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. He then predicts something interesting about His impending death and resurrection: “A little while longer and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live also.” (John 14:19) We know that this is also true, because no unbeliever sees the Lord after His burial; He was only seen by those who follow Him. He will also assuredly come to these disciples as well as to those who believe in Him at the end of the age of grace, when He will take everyone home to heaven. Continuing in John 14:20, Jesus mentions “at that day,” which most likely refers to Pentecost. When He refers to “you in me and I in you,” He is pointing out the vital link between the Father and the Son. In much this same way, there is also a vital link between the Lord and His saints. The statement that Christ is in us and we are in Christ is difficult to imagine or explain. But we can know and be assured that Christ is in the believer in the sense that His life is implanted in him, and that Christ actually dwells in us through the Holy Spirit!

While the Lord is with His disciples, before He has been arrested, condemned and put to death, He teaches His followers only up to a certain point. He does not reveal everything to them, because they are confused enough by what He has already told them. This is why He says in John 14:25, “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.” Finally, we arrive at Jesus promise to us regarding the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “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 things that I said to you.” (John 14:26) He is communicating that when the Holy Spirit would come, He would reveal more to them. We should also note that Jesus points out the Spirit being sent by the Father. He comes in Christ’s name in the sense that He came to represent the Lord’s interest on earth. He does not come to glorify Himself, rather to draw men and women to the Savior. Here Jesus is promising that the Spirit will teach us many valuable things, through the words of the apostles and the written Word of God. Then, Jesus predicts that the Holy Spirit will help His followers remember much of the truths which He presents in germ form in the New Testament during His earthly ministry.

Now let us look at Jesus’ similar teaching in John 15 and 16. He says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of me.” (John 15:26) He affirms again that the Spirit is indeed sent forth by the Father. This first happens at Pentecost, to testify of Christ. Note that the Spirit will testify of Christ later through the disciples who survive Christ and carry on His earthly ministry after He has ascended. They have been with Jesus and are therefore qualified to tell of the glories of His Person and the wonder of His work. In John 16 we see Jesus teaching that it is imperative He should go back to heaven in order that the Spirit will come to earth as His people’s Helper. The Spirit will empower, equip, teach, and make the Lord more real to them than ever He has been before. The Spirit also has active work among the unsaved as we see in John 16:8-9. Jesus says, “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me.” This shows that the Spirit will convict people of the sin of rejecting Christ. In John 16:10, He explains what it means to convict of righteousness: “because I go to My Father and you see me no more.” The Lord is completely righteous and God approves of His perfect character by opening the heavens, raising Him from the dead, and taking Him back to heaven.

The Holy Spirit witnesses to the world of these things! We know, as with the passage from John 14, that there are still many truths that the Lord wants to tell His disciples but they are not able to receive them, or ready to understand them. But we are assured that when the Holy Spirit will come, He will continue to reveal God’s will and God’s plan. Jesus says, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13) The result of this guidance by the Spirit is the complete New Testament witness, which contains the full revelation of God, His plans past and future, and His purposes for the Church, which is Christ’s body. We should also observe Jesus words about the purity of the Spirit’s revelation, in that He will only speak of the things given to Him by the Father and the Son. The Spirit is responsible for informing Jesus’ followers about the “things to come.” The New Testament, and particularly Revelation, all point to this promising hopeful future of the Lord’s reign. In John 16:13-14, note the personal pronoun ‘He’ that the Lord uses nine times. This emphasizes that the principal work of the Spirit is to glorify Christ. In this way, we can test all preaching and teaching, for if it glorifies Christ, then it is of the Spirit. Finally, Jesus says, “All things that the Father has are mine. Therefore I said that He will take of mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:15) This means that the Spirit will take the great truths concerning Christ and reveal them to the seeking saint, and that all the attributes of the Father also belong to the Son. The Spirit unveils the glorious perfectness, ministries, offices, graces and fullness of the Lord Jesus. This is indeed a subject then can never be exhausted! Let us rejoice in the ministry of the Holy Spirit that testifies to the Lord’s glory in the world around us.