16:1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy
16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
I Have Overcome the World
25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.1 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
God the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, and His ministry is central to our salvation. We could not be saved without the work of the Son of God on the cross, and we would not be saved without the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts.
The Holy Spirit disturbs us so that we see our sin and grasp our need of the Savior. As He disturbs, He also illuminates, so that we can see the glory of Jesus.
If you have come to faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Spirit lives in you (1 Corinthians 6:19; 12:13). So don’t ever say that you can’t change.
Imagine a man who is fabulously wealthy. His name is Stavros, and over the years he has amassed billions of dollars.
When Stavros dies, his lawyer opens the will. It’s a lengthy document, running to hundreds of pages, and the beneficiaries are all over the world. Each of them has to be found and told about the legacy, and according to the terms of the will, every one of them has to be brought to Stavros’s home in order to receive what has been promised. The lawyer has his work cut out for years to come.
The Bible tells us that Christ has purchased a marvelous inheritance for us. Through His death and resurrection, He has opened the way for sinful men and women to be reconciled to God and to enter everlasting life. The will of God has been signed by the Father and sealed by the blood of Christ. But what has been signed and sealed still needs to be delivered.
It is one thing for a gift to be offered; it is another for that gift to be received. And all that Christ has done will be useless and of no value to us until we receive what He offers.
So how can the will of God be delivered to us? The answer is by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings what Jesus has accomplished on the cross and applies it personally to us.
Without the Spirit of God, salvation would remain a theoretical possibility, but it would never become a reality for anyone. If there were no Holy Spirit, no one would arrive in heaven. Without the Spirit, all that Jesus has done would be like a will that was never read, a gift that was never received, an inheritance that was never enjoyed.
God’s Disturber of the Peace
People in the world of business know that you can’t sell what people don’t want to buy. You may have the most marvelous widget, but if people can’t see a need for it, you don’t have much hope of success.
Christ offers forgiveness of sin, righteousness from above, and deliverance from the judgment to come. But most people do not feel that they need what Christ offers. That is why the first work of the Holy Spirit is to disturb our peace. “When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8).
Think about opening a can of paint. You would probably use a screwdriver or some other kind of lever to pry the lid open. Round the edge of the can there is a rim that functions as a pivot for the lever. If there were no rim, there would be nothing for the lever to pull on. A lever has to pull on a pivot.
The gospel is like a lever, and it depends on a sense of sin as its pivot. If a person has no sense of sin, the gospel will have no “pull” in that person’s life. The gospel is addressed to the sense of sin, and where that does not exist, it is like a lever without a pivot.
The gospel will only have its effect in our lives when the Holy Spirit creates a sense of sin within us, and that is why His first work is to disturb us by convicting us of sin.
We hear a great deal today about false guilt. False guilt is an inappropriate feeling of guilt over something that we did not do or for which we were not responsible. There is nothing useful about false guilt, and we need to expose it so that we can be free from it.
But there is such a thing as true guilt, and it needs to be embraced. True guilt relates to sins we have committed, righteousness we have not fulfilled, and the judgment that is due to us on account of these things. A person who never discovers his or her true guilt will continue down the path of sin and never find peace with God.
God’s Three Alarm Clocks
The first work of the Holy Spirit is to show us what’s wrong, so that we will see our need and be ready to listen to the gospel. This is never comfortable. Nobody likes to be wakened when they are sleeping, but if your house is on fire, you will be grateful to the person who wakens you.
My wife Karen and I have three alarm clocks in our bedroom. The first one wakens us gently with music. The second is set for a few minutes later in case we sleep through the first one, and it is more disturbing. The third is set later still and is a last resort if all else fails. It makes a horrendous sound, and the day begins much better if we are up before its deafening blast.
God has three ways to intercept sin in a person’s life. You could think of them as three alarm clocks. The first is the gentle work of God’s Spirit opening up your conscience and revealing what’s wrong so that you can change it.
If you sleep through that, the Holy Spirit may speak more loudly and directly. That’s what happened to David. God exposed his sin through the prophet Nathan. It became public knowledge, and at that point, David turned to God in repentance.
If a person ignores God’s second alarm, his or her situation becomes perilous. That is what happened to Pharaoh. God sent Moses to him, but Pharaoh refused to listen to God’s command, even when he was confronted directly. He continued to harden his heart, and eventually Pharaoh came under the judgment of God.
Consider these three alarms: the quiet work of God’s Spirit in opening the conscience, God exposing a secret sin, and the direct judgment of Almighty God. Which of these three would you like God to use to stop you from sinning?
Nothing could be more foolish than to resist the Holy Spirit when He speaks to you about your sin. God is reaching out to you in the gentlest of ways. It’s always disturbing, but the work of the Holy Spirit is always an expression of God’s grace.
Turning on the Floodlight
I love to drive past our church at night when it is floodlit. The building looks magnificent, but if it were not for the floodlights, its beauty would be hidden in the darkness.1 The Holy Spirit shines a light on Jesus Christ. He illuminates the truth that once was obscure to us and opens our understanding so that we see the glory of Jesus.
Jesus said, “When the Helper comes … he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). “He [the Holy Spirit] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (16:14). Like the floodlight, the Holy Spirit does not focus on Himself; He directs our attention to Jesus.
The Holy Spirit has a beautiful ministry. He shows us our need of a Savior, and He shows us that Christ is the Savior we need. Then He brings the two together. The Holy Spirit is heaven’s matchmaker. He brings us to Christ and joins Christ to us, so that everything Jesus accomplished on the cross becomes ours.
The Holy Spirit Is a Person
Speaking about the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper [or Counselor] to be with you forever” (14:16). For three years, Jesus had been the disciples’ counselor, and the Holy Spirit would continue to be all that Jesus had been to them.
The Holy Spirit is as much a person as the Father and the Son, so we should not think of Him simply as a power or force. The Bible speaks about lying to the Holy Spirit and grieving the Spirit (Acts 5:3; Ephesians 4:30). You cannot lie to a force, and you cannot grieve a power. A burst of energy could never be to the disciples everything that Jesus was.
Jesus told His disciples, “I am going to the Father,” (John 14:12), but “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (14:16-17). But then Jesus said, “I will come to you” (14:18). The presence of the Spirit with the disciples would mean that Christ Himself was truly with them.
Then Jesus said something even more astonishing: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:23). So where the Spirit is, both the Father and the Son will make their home.
You cannot know one person of the Trinity without the others. There is no such thing as knowing the Father apart from the Son, or the Son apart from the Spirit. It is through the Son that the Father has made Himself known, and it is the Holy Spirit who brings us to Jesus.
“In” and “With”
Jesus used two words to describe our relationship with the Holy Spirit: “He dwells with you and will be in you” (14:17). The Holy Spirit is with us. So, we must never confuse what we think and say with the mind of the Spirit. If we are wise, we will humbly allow others to test what we say. The Spirit is with me, and I often need Him to correct me.
Jesus also said that the Spirit would be in the disciples. The Spirit is more than a mentor who shows us what to do and then leaves us to do it. We need more than advice; we need the power to change. The Spirit is able to touch the deep places of your soul, renewing your mind, redirecting your affections, molding your will, cleansing your imagination, and healing your memory. He can create a new hunger and thirst for righteousness in you, and He can give you the power to live a new life for the glory of God.
1. I owe the illustration of the floodlight to Dr. J. I. Packer. See Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Old Tappan, N. J.: Revell, 1984), 65ff.
- What role does the Holy Spirit play in our salvation?
- What is the Holy Spirit’s first work in a person’s life? What has been your experience of this?
- God has three ways of stopping a person from sinning. Are you personally aware of God using any of these in your own life? How so?
- In your own words, how is the Holy Spirit like a floodlight?
- Respond to the statement: “He [the Holy Spirit] dwells with you and will be in you.”