In our studies of the life of Jesus, we have come to the eve of his death. We have already seen that he withdrew with only his apostles to eat the Passover meal. He taught them another lesson in humility by washing their feet. He instituted the Communion meal or Lord’s Supper as a continual reminder of the sacrifice he was preparing to make. He knew that the next day he would be put to death. Not long after his resurrection, he would ascend to God, and the apostles would have the heavy responsibility of carrying out the mission that he had entrusted to them—announcing the Good News to the whole world.
In the last hours with his apostles, Jesus prepared them for what was coming. One thing he said to reassure them was that they would have the help of the Comforter in accomplishing their task. In what he tells them concerning the Comforter, one idea returns repeatedly. It is that Christ himself is at the heart of his work.
Our Muslim readers are invited to follow closely the verses that we will read and explain, for many have the idea that the Comforter that Jesus promised here is the prophet Muhammad. In examining what Jesus said concerning the one who would come after him, you can determine whether these prophecies were really accomplished in Muhammad. Our Charismatic and Pentecostal friends are also invited to pay attention to the teaching of Jesus which we will see here and compare it to their beliefs about the Holy Spirit.
John 14:16,17 – “Another Helper”
In John 14:16,17, Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Jesus did not say that the apostles must pray for the Spirit to come. When he returned to heaven, according to Acts 1, he did not tell them to return to Jerusalem and fast or pray that God would send the Holy Spirit. He told them simply to wait for that which the Father had promised. The Spirit was promised in response to the prayer of Jesus.
Jesus here refers to the Spirit as the “Comforter.” Actually, the Greek word paraklétos, which is translated as “comforter” in this passage, is much more general than our word “comforter.” This word does not particularly indicate someone who consoles or relieves a person who is sad or in mourning. Literally the word means someone who is called to someone else’s side. It was sometimes used to speak of a person who appeared before a judge to plead on behalf of another person. This is someone who stands by another to help him. Thus the Bible refers to him as “the helper” in John 14:26. Later on, Jesus will indicate the type of helper he has in mind. Christ helps us, but he is not the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “The Father will give you another comforter.” The Holy Spirit would be another helper for the disciples.
John 14:26 – “He will teach you and bring to your remembrance all things…”
In John 14:26, Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” The fact that the Helper would come in Jesus’ name is important. Jesus does not direct our attention past himself to be fixed on the Spirit. The Spirit directs our attention—not toward himself, but rather toward Christ. The coming of the Spirit in Jesus’ name shows that the Spirit represents Christ. He doesn’t replace him.
The mission of the Spirit would be to teach and remind. In accomplishing their mission, the apostles would mainly need two things: they would need to remember what Christ had taught them, and they would need to understand what he had said. The Spirit would come to help them meet these needs. We also see that it is Jesus who is at the heart of the activity of the Spirit. The “I” in the verse is emphatic in the original language: “He will cause you to remember all that I have told you.”
It is important to emphasize that we cannot treat this verse as a promise made directly to us, to all Christians. It is necessary to always respect the historical context of scripture. We benefit from the story of Noah, for example, but it goes without saying that the order to build an ark to save people from a flood is not addressed to us. The promise which says, “He will… bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” was addressed to those who had heard what Jesus had taught during his ministry on earth. Jesus was speaking specifically to these people, to his apostles. These are the apostles who would be inspired by the Holy Spirit and not to all Christians or all preachers. The Spirit guided the apostles in what they taught and wrote. He helped them to recall infallibly what Jesus had done and said when he was with them. We benefit from the fruit of this divine help every time we read the New Testament. The promise was made for us too but it was not made to us.
John 15:26,27 – He Will Bear Witness of Christ
John 15:26,27 says, ”But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.”
When the Spirit bears witness, he speaks of Christ. The apostles also bear witness. They are qualified as witnesses because they were with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry. What is the connection between the witness of the Holy Spirit and that of the apostles? How does the Spirit give his testimony? Do we have two independent and unrelated testimonies? No, there would be a single testimony that the apostles would give with the help of the Holy Spirit who would guide and instruct them. David’s case gives us an example of such a testimony. In Acts 1:16, we read that the Spirit spoke in Scripture by the mouth of David. In Mark 12:36, we read that “David himself, by the Holy Spirit, said…” In light of these examples we see that when the apostles testified, the Spirit testified, and that when the Spirit testified, he spoke by the men that Jesus chose and prepared through their presence with him.
John 16:7-11 – The Spirit Convinces
Jesus continues in John 16:7-11:
“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 depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
The work of the Spirit in regard to the world is to convince and persuade. The Spirit convinces men of the sin of unbelief in order to bring them to faith. The Spirit convinces people of the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness demonstrated by the fact that Christ went to God. The Spirit will give the conviction that Christ’s death meant God’s judgment upon evil and was not a mere tragedy or the execution of a criminal.
The Spirit convinces men and leads them to faith by his testimony on the subject of Christ, a testimony given in the words of the apostles. In Romans 10:17, we read, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” This is why James 1:18,21 says that we are engendered or born again by the word, and that the word that was planted in us can save our souls.
John 16:12,13 – The Spirit Leads in All Truth
In John 16:12,13, Jesus continues his teaching about the Spirit, saying:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
By the Spirit the apostles would be enabled to understand what they could not yet grasp in the work of Christ. The teaching of the Spirit would not take a new direction, but would be in accord with Christ and be derived from him.
The fact that the Spirit would lead the apostles into all the truth means that all men would need to know to be saved and to please God would be revealed in the lifetime of the apostles. As Jude wrote in verse 3 of his epistle, “the faith (that is, what we are to believe)… was once for all delivered to the saints.” This work having been completed, according to the promise of Jesus, through the action of the Spirit in the apostles, there are no spiritual truths left to be revealed, either in the centuries after the death of the apostles or in our day. All that is necessary is contained in the New Testament.
John 16:14,15 – He Glorifies Jesus
Jesus ended his words about the Holy Spirit in John 16:14,15 in this manner: “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.” The Spirit of God glorifies Christ. A false spirit leads beyond Christ and has people preoccupied with some experience, some thrilling and exciting experience of the spirit itself.
The creed of Islam states, “There is only one God, and Muhammad is his prophet.” In Islam Jesus is spoken of, but Muhammad is spoken of much more. In contrast, the Comforter was to glorify Jesus. He was to come in the name of Christ. He would be sent by Christ. And he would be in the apostles of Christ. Does Muhammad really fit this description?
In Acts chapter 2, the apostle Peter preached a sermon about Jesus of Nazareth. He spoke of his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension. The purpose of the sermon, considering the conclusion, was to produce the conviction that Jesus is Lord and Christ. It had the desired effect. Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” In his sermon, did Peter bear witness of Christ? Did he convince people? Did he lead them to faith in Christ? Did he glorify Christ? Certainly, he did all these things. So did the Holy Spirit play a part in this work? Without a doubt, yes, for it was he who inspired the sermon.
The Spirit still works this way, through the Scripture, to convict people of sin, justice and judgment and to lead them to faith in Christ. Through the Gospel, the Spirit continues to pronounce the same message in the same sense.