by J.C. Metcalfe
THE HOLY SPIRIT
"He will guide you into all truth" - John 14:13
Recently I was speaking to someone, who said that all we need is a very simple knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and hinted that teaching concerning the Holy Spirit of God is unnecessary. There is danger in taking such an attitude. We must recognize that the Lord Jesus Himself told His disciples that He must leave them, but promised them Another Comforter; and showed them plainly all that the Holy Spirit was to mean to them. It is most important then, that we should understand the part the Holy Spirit plays in applying in our lives the great and wonderful things that have been accomplished for us by the Lord Jesus Christ in His Cross, and resurrection.
In this chapter, therefore, I want to look at the witness given by the Lord Jesus Himself in John's Gospel chapters 14,15 and 16, to the coming, work and place of the Holy Spirit in the Christian Church. The first reference to the Holy Spirit in these chapters is as follows: "If ye love Me keep (or better - ye will 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; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:15-17).
Three facts appear in these verses.
1) Because the Lord Jesus went back to the Father pleading the blood of His sacrifice on the Cross for us, The Comforter was sent not just as a temporary guest, but to remain for ever in the hearts of His people (see Ephesians 1:13,14 and 4:30).
2) He is the Spirit of truth, not only of truth as revealed in Scripture, but of sincerity and honesty; and cannot be received by the world, but only by those who are born again (see Colossians 1:13).
3) He comes to dwell in us, and to form in us the nature of the Lord Jesus (see Ephesians 3:16,17, 1Corinthians 6:19, etc.).
Now look forther on in the same chapter, and read verses 25 and 26: "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". What may we learn from these verses? That the Holy Spirit has come to be our Teacher. He will also quicken our memories so that we can remember as we need the teachings, and portions of Scripture which we have studied for ourselves. This does not mean that He will teach us all kinds of things, which do not concern us. He has not come to make us religious experts, but to show us how to live so that God shall be glorified. When a child goes to school it must submit to the guidance and training given by its teachers if it is to learn. So it is with us, we must recognize that the Holy Spirit can reveal the things of God to us, and submit ourselves day by day to His teaching.
We now have to turn to the closing verses of chapter 15 to find more concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. "When the Comforter is come, Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of Me; and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning" (John 15:26,27). The coming of the Holy Spirit into the world in order to bring the Christian Church into being is always closely linked with the thought of witness. Such passages as Luke 24:45-49. Acts 1:7,8, Acts 9:17-22, etc., fully prove this fact.
The Holy Spirit of God has one great work in which He is engaged in this age. This work is to bear witness to the grace of God given to men in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to exalt Him (see 1John 5:6, Romans 8:15,16, 1Corinthians 2:12, 13, 1Peter 1:22, etc.). He does this through those in whom He lives. The work of the Christian in this world is to give evidence - to be a witness; and in this connection we must always remember that what we are, and how we live speaks much louder than what we say. "Let your light," said the Lord Jesus, "so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Peter, possibly remembering this command, wrote: "Having your conversation honest among the gentiles; that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1Peter 2:12).
Unless it has behind it a life in which the power of God is seen, testimony is quite without value.
It is wise to note, also, the subject of witness. There are many who think that testimony is talking about their own spiritual experiences, and, therefore, begin to value those experiences more than they do their Lord. "He shall testify of Me," said the Lord Jesus. One of the finest examples of pure testimony is Peter's sermon recorded in Acts 2:14-36. He passes over in a few sentences the fact of the wonderful pentecostal experience into which he, and the others gathered in the upper room, had just entered, and becomes absorbed in speaking of Christ, and Christ alone.
Today testimony is often restricted to meetings composed of sympathetic fellow-Christians, but the whole of the New Testament shows that the right place for witness is to the outsiders with whom we live and work. They need to see the evidence of all that God has done for and in us by our daily lives; and hear from our lips, not all about our experiences, but the praises of our great and glorious Savior.
Chapter 16 contains the fullest teaching of all on this subject: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on Me; of righteousness because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; of Judgment because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:7-15).
The first five verses - verses 7-11 - of this passage, speak of the particular way in which the witness of the Holy Spirit is carried on as far as the world of unconverted men and women is concerned. Three things are spoken of concerning which He convinces the man who is without Christ. The first of these is sin (vv.8-9), and the particular sin is emphasized so as to leave no room for doubt, "Because they believe not on Me." Faith in the Crucified, Risen, and Ascended Savior, gives a man pardon, and power over any type of sin. The one sin that takes a man to hell is refusal to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. It is possible for men to be sorry about sins they have committed simply because of the difficulties into which they have fallen through them. I once had, for instance, to interview a young man who had just come out of prison. He was fearful as to how his parents would receive him. He was full of anxiety about his future, as to whether anyone would employ him. But he was not interested in the gospel, nor did the fact that he had sinned before God worry him in the slightest. This was simply a natural reaction to sin and its just punishment, and not in any sense the work of the Holy Spirit. He shows us ourselves as God sees us, and how hopeless any effort at self-improvement is. Then the way is clear for Him to reveal that Christ is the only answer to man's need.
Next, therefore, comes the fact of righteousness (vv.8 and 10) - "of righteousness because I go to the Father, and ye see Me no more". His next revelation is that God is "just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). That "He hath made the iniquity of us all to meet upon Him" (the Lord Jesus) (Isaiah 53:6). That He has accepted His Son as our representative, and will not only look upon us as righteous, but make us righteous in and through Him. "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2Corinthians 5:21). When the Holy Spirit has revealed to a man sin as seen from God's standpoint, then the way is open for Him also to show him the wonderful provision God has made for him in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have often met men who show some real desire to change their lives, and get rid of some of the worst things in them; but when you discover what their real aim is, you find it is simply to make life easier and more pleasant for themselves. There is no thought at all of wishing to please, or satisfy God. If the Holy Spirit, however, is working in a man's life, this will be his desire, and he will soon learn to say with Mary: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46, 47).
Finally comes the fact of judgment (vv.8 and 11) - "of judgment because the prince of this world is judged". In his book The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan shows how the very first experience of Christian, was his fear because he found himself to be living in the City of Destruction. The urge to escape was so great that no hindrances were sufficient to stop him leaving everything behind, and setting out for the Celestial City. When the Holy Spirit begins to speak to a man's heart that man begins to understand that heaven and hell are real; that this world in which we live is doomed; that Satan its prince and god, and all who ally themselves to him are under the "wrath of God" (John 3:36). Such a man knows that these things are not just the inventions of religion, but that they are written in the Word of God, and must come to pass. Here, then, are three marks by which we may know that the Holy Spirit of God is present with us, and working in our midst. If we do not see these things happening in the hearts of the unconverted, we may question as to whether He is with us at all.
The second section of our passage, verses 12-15, re-emphasize much of what we have already seen of the ministry of the Holy Spirit to the Christian. The Lord Jesus tells His disciples that He has many more things which He wishes to tell them, but that until the Cross has been endured, and they are indwelt by His Spirit, they cannot understand them. Then He makes them some promises, as to what the Holy Spirit is to do for and in them.
1. He shall lead them into all truth. Day by day to the end of their lives, they could be certain that all the truth they needed to know, would be shown to them as they sought Him in humble dependence.
2. They can be absolutely certain that all they learn from Him, is that which is of God, and not some delusion invented to lead them astray.
3. He shall, as is right and good for them, show them those things that lie ahead of them; they shall not be taken by surprise either by the trials or events of life, but shall find step by step the heart preparation of the Spirit of God. They shall learn in practical experience that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). Therefore their hearts are at rest, and their lives are lived in peace.
4. He shall consistently seek the glory of the Lord Jesus. When the Holy Spirit is at work Christ is always exalted, and placed in His rightful position as the One Who has the first place (see Colossians 1:18,19). Those who are taught by the Holy Spirit always seek the glory of the Lord Jesus, not their own.
5. He shall reveal to the seeking, hungry heart the comfort and glory of the inheritance bought by the precious blood of Christ (1Peter 1:17-21), and cause such to "know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1Corinthians 2:12).
Let us be quite clear about this. We can know nothing of the grace and power of God except through the work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot bear witness either by life or lip apart from His enabling. God has decreed that it is through Him, and Him alone that the great salvation secured for us by the Lord Jesus Christ shall be made real to and in us; and "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Romans 8:9).
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