Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You (Part Two)
In the previous article we looked at why it was essential for Jesus to go to the cross, rise from the dead, and ascend to the Father. Only in doing so could we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we also noted what Jesus meant when he said it was to our “advantage” that he go away. Continue reading . . .
In the previous article we looked at why it was essential for Jesus to go to the cross, rise from the dead, and ascend to the Father. Only in doing so could we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And we also noted what Jesus meant when he said it was to our “advantage” that he go away.
We turn today to what Jesus said in John 16:8-11 regarding what the Holy Spirit would do when he comes: “he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (v. 8).But the mistake people make when reading this passage is in thinking that the Holy Spirit does all these things immediately and directly without the use of means or men and women. In other words, people have this idea of the Spirit moving freely in the air, as it were, exerting his influence of conviction on the hearts and minds of non-Christians concerning the issues of sin, righteousness, and judgment.
Now, in one sense I suppose that is true. We should never put restrictions on what the Holy Spirit does. But in another and far more important sense we need to understand that this ministry of the Spirit is what he does in and through and by means of you and me!
Look again at John 16:7. Jesus says that if he goes he will send the Spirit “to you,” that is, to the disciples, and to all Christians in subsequent generations. He doesn’t say I will send the Spirit to the “world” of non-believers but to “you, my followers, the soon-to-be-birthed Church of Jesus Christ.” Let’s return for just a moment to what Jesus said earlier about the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. Here is what Jesus said in John 14:16-17,
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).
The Spirit’s primary work when he comes is to live in us and to empower us to carry on the work of Jesus in a far more expansive way than anything Jesus could have done while on earth. Jesus was only one person, limited to one place in space. But through the Spirit he is present everywhere his people are found. It is through the disciples that Jesus continues his ministry through the Spirit whom he sends to them. It is through our preaching of the gospel and our lives given in love for one another that the Holy Spirit brings conviction to the hearts of people in the world.
So, my point is that we miss the point of our Lord if we think he is sending the Spirit to do this work of bringing conviction to non-Christians independently of Christians. No. The Spirit accomplishes what is described in vv. 8-11 precisely as he indwells us, lives in us, empowers us, and energizes us to bear witness to the person and work of Jesus. We, the Church, are the means by which the Spirit does his work in the world.
Let me ask all of you something. And by “all” I include myself. When you find yourself in close contact with non-Christians, whether at work or in your family or somewhere in the course of daily life, do you find yourself thinking: “Holy Spirit, I’m so glad that you are present to convict this person of his/her sin in rejecting Jesus. I also hope you will convict them concerning their deficient views of that righteousness that makes us acceptable to God. And I suspect that this person doesn’t think that real judgment is coming. So let me step out of the way, shut my mouth, and pray that you will work immediately and directly on their hearts. I wouldn’t want to gum up matters by saying something or doing something and getting in your way.”
Is that what you think Jesus is saying here in John 16? No. The promise isn’t that when the Spirit comes he works apart from us or without us but that he works through us. We are the witnesses to the glory of Christ and the sin of unbelief, a witness that we are empowered to bear and make known through the indwelling presence of the Spirit.
To be continued . . .