In the sixteenth chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus revealed to his disciples the reality that he would not be with them forever, but that he would soon return to the Father in heaven (John 16:5-15). The response of the disciples was intense sorrow, but this gave Jesus the opportunity to explain the person and role of the Holy Spirit. While the Spirit has been working since creation, it is when Jesus leaves that he takes his full place and role in the life of the people of God. Why did Jesus leave the Holy Spirit for us and what role does the Spirit have in the life of the world and of the believer in particular?
Jesus understood that his followers had grown to love him dearly and so when he began to speak to them of his departure, great sorrow arose in their hearts. His answer to this sorrow was to reveal the great opportunity that was possible because he was leaving. Jesus speaks of his leaving as being to the advantage of his followers; something that must have seemed very perplexing indeed. Jesus, God in the flesh, was among them and it seems inconceivable that his leaving should be a good thing. Yet, Jesus spoke of this as being an important truth that they needed to comprehend. Jesus’ leaving meant his death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins, his resurrection from the dead as testimony that we too will conquer death, and his ascension to heaven, which is the promise that we will one day do so as well. All of this set the stage for the release of the Holy Spirit on the earth and in the lives of the followers of Jesus.
Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the Helper. Previously Jesus had spoken of the work of the Spirit in connection with the ability of the believer who loves Jesus to follow his commandments (John 14:16, 17). Jesus’ promised that he would specifically request that the Father send another of the same kind, equally God, equally eternal, to be with the followers of Jesus, to live in them, and to continually bring to their remembrance the things that Jesus had taught them. This work of the Holy Spirit is essential to understand the miracle of the inspiration of the New Testament.
The Holy Spirit brought to their remembrance those things Jesus taught and brought continual revelation to the disciples and other followers of Jesus who penned the Word of God. Jesus promised his disciples that after he went away that he would send the Helper specifically to them. It would be through the gift of the Holy Spirit, his coming in power and his dwelling within those who loved Jesus and followed him, that the kingdom of God would be established and that the name of Jesus would be lifted up, which alone brings salvation to those who believe in him.
The Holy Spirit, The Helper
Jesus revealed the essential role of the Holy Spirit, the Helper, in the carrying out of the mission that Jesus gave his disciples to take his message throughout the earth. The Spirit’s role is to bring conviction of sin to those who are living in a state of rejection of God and of his offer of salvation. As the followers of Jesus speak forth the truth that salvation is available through faith in Jesus, it is the work of the Helper to bring to the minds of the hearers the reality that they are sinners, separated from God, and in need of the salvation that is being offered. Sin, at its essence, is the refusal to believe in Jesus as the one way of salvation.
The promise of Jesus is that as his followers faithfully go forward and proclaim his message to the world, the Holy Spirit will work in the spirit of those who hear and bring them to a place of repentance. The role of the disciple of Christ is to obediently declare the truth and the role of the Helper is to bring transformation in the lives of those who respond in faith. The Holy Spirit is present to work through the faithful declaration of God’s truth in the world, to lift up the name of Jesus as Lord over all the earth, and to announce that Jesus is the final judge of all things. The Helper will lead people to see that they are ultimately accountable to the righteous judge, Jesus, for all that they do and that salvation is only by trusting in Jesus’ finished work.
The Holy Spirit, Our Guide
The work of the Holy Spirit is not limited to what Jesus’ said while on the earth, but his work continues in the lives of believers throughout history. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would direct those who love and follow Jesus into all truth. This truth includes a fuller understanding of Jesus’ words, a fuller understanding of God’s revelation through the prophets in the Old Testament, and a fuller revelation of the things that are to come. To the degree that the followers of Jesus receive the continued revelation of the Spirit, the more the name of Jesus is lifted up and His glory is shown in the world. Jesus entrusted his kingdom work to his followers but did not leave them alone. The left of the Holy Spirit was and is essential to fulfilling all that Jesus came to accomplish on the earth and to prepare the people of God to rule eternally with Jesus over all creation.