The Holy Spirit
John 14:15-21 TNIV: If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.
Maybe you have felt that you have lost the enthusiasm that you had when you first became a Christian. You can no longer feel the joy you felt when you were young. In the revival when you first gave your life to Jesus you experienced that you got a new life. The things that used to be important to you were of no importance anymore. And the things that previously seemed uninteresting were now the cause of your greatest joy. But now that feeling is gone. You are cold and indifferent. The word of God no longer excites you. The fellowship with other believers no longer inspires you.
Maybe this is because your health has become weaker. Due to your sickness, it has become difficult to feel any joy at all. You read in the Bible that joy is among the fruit of the Spirit, but you must admit that you are lacking in that respect.
Maybe you are thinking: maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it was an illusion. Maybe this whole thing about Christianity is a bluff. Or maybe it did not really work for me. Maybe I was not really born again. Maybe I just made myself believe it. And maybe the circumstances in the first revival, or the thrill of finally making this decision, maybe this energized me and lead me to believe that something really did happen. But it was just an illusion. It did not really work. At least, it did not really work for me.
When Jesus was preparing himself to go to Jerusalem, he knew that the disciples soon would experience something like this. Jesus was going to die and the disciples would be left, wondering what's next? Jesus is no longer among us. What shall we do? These three years of following Jesus have been good. Probably the best time of our lives. But now it's over. Jesus is dead. We must go back to the lives we had before.
From our perspective, it does not seem like such a big deal that Jesus was getting ready to die. Because that was his mission. That was why he came, so that he could save the world. But the disciples at this point had not grasped the full nature of Jesus' mission. They believed that he was the Messiah, the one that God had promised would come. They believed that he would be Israel's savior. They even believed that he was the son of God. But they did not understand that he had to die to be the savior of the world.
They had left everything to follow him. They had left their own business and financial security so that they could walk around with a teacher who had no formal education. It was quite a wager. And soon it would be evidently clear that their expectations would not be met. Jesus would die and Israel would be in the same sorry state it had been for decades now.
Jesus knows that his disciples have to be prepared for this disappointment. The apostle John gives us the most exhaustive account of Jesus' instruction to his disciples in this situation. From the end of chapter 13 through chapter 17 we find what is called Jesus' farewell discourse.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, Jesus says. Now, there’s a surprise. It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (16:7).
Jesus is going away so that he can give them a greater blessing. Jesus' leaving the disciples was to prepare them for an even more intimate fellowship with him. Until now he had been walking among them. From now on, his Spirit would dwell in them. Jesus' death and ascension was the preparation for Pentecost. God's departure from the disciples was the preparation for a much more magnificent arrival to them.
And this is a principle that can be observed time and again in the Bible. When God wants to give us a greater blessing he does so by letting us feel temporarily forsaken by him. This was how he led the people of Israel into the promised land. He took them through the desert. And in the desert they felt so deserted that they were ready to give up on the entire journey with God. Let's go back to Egypt, they said, back to slavery. At least that was better than being here in the desert. But the way to the promised land went through the desert. The way to the blessing went through them feeling forsaken by God. But they were never forsaken. God was with them all the time. And he knew where he was leading them. Into the promised land, the land of milk and honey. The land of prosperity and blessing.
The righteous man Job had the same experience. His wealth was taken away from him. In an instant, he lost all his children. He was stricken with disease. Satan got his way with him and God did not intervene. It appeared that all his righteousness and piety was futile. It went so far that his wife said to him: “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die” (Job 2:90). In other words, either God cannot or he does not want to help you. In either case, your piety is in vain.
But the outcome of the suffering for Job was an even greater blessing. “And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.... The LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; and he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.” (Job 42:10, 12 NRSV)
Jesus goes away so that he can give his disciples a greater blessing. “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you (John 16:20-22).
Jesus goes away so that he can give his disciples a greater blessing. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” The word translated advocate, can refer to several functions. The basic meaning is something who is called to our presence, someone called to our aid. It was often used for an attorney. And this fits the meaning in John fairly well. Jesus refers to another advocate, which means that there is also a first advocate, who is himself.
An attorney can have two functions. He can be a trial lawyer, someone who appears before the judge on our behalf. And he can be someone who offers legal counsel in general. You and I are in a position where we need a really good trial lawyer. Because our judge is the Almighty God, the creator of heaven and earth. And he is a scrupulously righteous judge and he does not accept any unrighteousness whatsoever. And we are sinners, we have sinned in thoughts, words, and deeds. And the worst part is that our heart is evil. And we are to appear before the judge who has vowed to punish every sin with eternal death. We need a good trial lawyer, indeed. The apostle John tells us that Jesus Christ, the son of God, is our trial lawyer. “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Jesus Christ is the first advocate, our first attorney. He is our trial lawyer, appearing in the heavenly court, presenting our case before the heavenly judge, God the Father. And let me tell you one thing: he has the most miserable client any trial lawyer ever had. But let me tell you what his defense is. Briefly stated, it goes like this: heavenly judge, I guarantee you that my client is completely innocent. My client has never sinned in anything. On the contrary, my client is holy and perfectly righteous. If you should find anything else, I shall be personally responsible. Let my client be acquitted and let any necessary punishment be meted out on me. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
The Holy Spirit is the other advocate. His function is to be our counsel, or more comprehensively, the one who strengthens, encourages, and comes to our aid.
The coming of the Holy Spirit is the greater blessing. Through the Holy Spirit the disciples will experience the love of God in an even higher degree.
“Those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” At the end of his farewell discourse, when Jesus addresses the Father, he concludes with these words: “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26) The love that God the Father has for his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. Imagine that love. There is no greater love than that. No one has ever loved anyone more than God the Father loved his only begotten son. Jesus prays that we may experience that love. Imagine that. God the Father will love you with the same intensity that he loves his only begotten son. And his children will love one another with the same the love he loves his son. That is the purpose of the sending of the Holy Spirit. That is the greater blessing.
I get the impression that many Christians today think of the Holy Spirit as a battery charger. They think of him as a power that can empower them. When their life as a Christian is not the way they feel it should be, they need more power. Their batteries need to be recharged. They need another power charge from the Holy Spirit. That is not what the Holy Spirit is like. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. And when Christ could no longer be among his disciples he gave them he greater blessing. He promised to dwell in them, by his Spirit. The connection between Jesus and his Spirit is so close that in Romans 8 Paul can say about those who have the Holy Spirit that Christ is in you (Rom 8:10).
The gift of the Holy Spirit is no separate gift for Christians. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of Christ. “He will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13b-14) The presence of the Holy Spirit is a more immediate presence of Christ himself.
How does this happen? It happens through the word of Jesus: But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you (John 14:26). The love of God is given to us through his word
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).
This does not mean that the gift of the Spirit is a reward for our keeping his commandments. In the kingdom of God, everything is by grace. Everything is undeserved. Nothing is by merit. What this means is that receiving the Spirit goes together with remaining in Jesus’ love and in his word. When he says that you will keep my commandments, he refers to everything that he has said, not only his ethical commandments, in the strict sense, but all the truth that he has revealed about himself, about the Father, and about the kingdom of God.
In v. 21 he repeats this principle: They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." And in v. 23 he reinforces the same idea, but this time, he talks about keeping his word, rather than his commandments: "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” From this we learn that the commandments and the word mean the same thing. It means the whole revelation that he has given us.
That is why the Holy Spirit is known as the Spirit of truth. He is the Spirit that reminds us and teaches us the word of Jesus and that is the way through which we enjoy Jesus’ love. The word of Jesus, the revelation of Jesus, is first and foremost a revelation of the love that he has showed to us by dying for us. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).
By dying and going to the Father, Jesus gave us the greater blessing. Since he has died for our sins, he is qualified to be our trial lawyer in the heavenly court. And since he has gone to the Father, he sends us his Spirit so that his word can be in us and his love can be in us.
© Sigurd Grindheim