Tribulation Saint

Historic Christianity in the Twenty First Century

Month: July, 2019

THE TEACHING MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

Jesus had just promised us that if we love Him and keep His commandments, “My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23; NKJV); and, as we have seen, this refers primarily to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus now goes on to elaborate on what the Holy Spirit will do for us: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to you remembrance all things that I said to you” (v. 26).

The primary reference here, undoubtedly, is to the apostles.  They would be witnesses to His resurrection, and would be appointed to be His personal representatives to the world.  As they would elaborate on the meaning and significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit would give them direct revelation.  The apostle Paul, for instance, could describe the process this way: “. . .we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained . . . But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.  For the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God . . .” (I Cor.2:7-10)  “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, combining spiritual things with spiritual” (vv. 12,13). The “words” which the Holy Spirit teaches are logois – concepts, ideas which come from the mind of God Himself.

Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit will “bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  This points to the preaching of the apostles, and especially to the writing of the four gospels contained in the New Testament.  Matthew and John were both written by apostles; Mark was written by a close associate of Peter and Luke by a close associate of Paul.  The implication is that the four gospels give us an accurate representation of what the historical Jesus actually said and did.

But the Holy Spirit’s work of “teaching you all things” should not be confined to just the apostles.  There is also work which the Holy Spirit performs in the lives of believers throughout the church as well.  Here again, when the apostle Paul prays for the Ephesians, he asks that God “may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, they eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe . . .” (Eph. 1:17-19).

The Bible is written in human language; it has a vocabulary and a grammatical structure.  Almost any educated person can read it and gain at least a general idea of what it says.  But little of it will be real and meaningful to him if the Holy Spirit has not renewed his heart and enlightened his eyes; so that he can genuinely understand the things that the Bible is describing.  These things are spiritual realities, and to gain a proper appreciation of them we must first gain an understanding of them and how they affect us personally.  Significantly Paul asks that the Ephesians would know the “hope” of Christ’s calling, “the riches of the glory” of His inheritance, and “the exceeding greatness” of His power – in other words, the subjective qualities of these things.  And this is something that the Holy Spirit must give us, the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.”  It is the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination.

This, then, is the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Without it the preaching ministry of the church cannot be successful.  Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten minds and give us spiritual understanding.  And so we must be earnest in prayer that God would pour out His Spirit upon us, and that our hearts would be quickened and we can adore and praise the Savior accordingly.

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THE PROMISE OF THE PRESENCE

 

Jesus has already given His disciples the promise of the Holy Spirit (I John 14:16,17).  He has       also told them that “If you love Me, keep My commandments”  (v. 15: NKJV).   He now proceeds to link the two statements together.  “He who had My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.   And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and manifest Myself to him” (v. 21).  Here the promise that we will be “loved by My Father” is made conditional on our loving Christ and keeping His commandments.  We cannot experience the blessing unless we fulfill the condition.

There is a sense in which “God so loved the world,” but that is a kind of love that is not based on any good which God sees in us.  Rather it is the pity and compassion that a merciful God shows towards His wretched, rebellious creatures.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  Theologians sometimes call this God’s “love of benevolence,” from the Latin word “benevolentia” – “good will” or “kindness.”

But that is not what Jesus is describing here.  This is a love which God has especially for those who love Christ and keep His commandments.  He loves them because they love Him.  He is genuinely pleased with their love.  Theologians sometimes refer to this as God’s “love of complacence,” from a Latin word which means “to be pleased with” something.  And that is the kind of love which God has for those who consciously try to please Him.

God originally created us human beings to have fellowship with Him.  He created us in His image, and endowed us with intellect, emotion and will, so that we could have a personal relationship with Him.  But what ruined that was our sin and rebellion.  The relationship was severed and we were alienated from God – we had become His enemies and were therefore under His wrath and condemnation.

But that changes when we become Christians.  Christ died for our sins.  We repent and ask for forgiveness and put our trust in Him.  We are reconciled to God and can now have the relationship with Him that we were originally meant to have.  We are brought into a position in which we can appreciate Christ for all that He is and has done for us – we love Him, and want to please Him, and as a result “. . . he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

But how does Jesus “manifest” Himself to us?  Certainly not in any physical way.  None of us has ever seen Jesus physically = the pictures that we see of Him were all created in the artists’ imaginations.  But there is a sense in which we can know Jesus personally – to have real communion with Him, to sense His presence with us, and to know and understand Him better.  This happens when we spend time alone with Him in prayer and in meditation upon His Word, and the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to receive the truth.  We then come to understand and appreciate Jesus in a way that we never did before.  He as manifested Himself to us.

The disciples were still somewhat puzzled by this, and Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” (v. 22); to which Jesus replied, “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.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the world you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (vv. 23,24).

Here again He emphasizes that if we genuinely love Him we will keep His word.  But He elaborates a little further on the promise: “and we will come to him and make Our home [NASV: “abode”] with Him.”  Again, Jesus is not speaking of physically dwelling with us; He is in heaven and we are here on earth.  Rather He is speaking of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts and making His presence felt.  It is a spiritual abiding.

But Jesus makes this blessing contingent on our loving Him and keeping His word?  Does not every Christian believer have the Holy Spirit dwelling in his heart?  Yes, but not to the same degree.  While it is true that every truly born-again Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling inside his heart, the New Testament makes it clear that the blessings of the Holy Spirit are variable, depending on a believer’s love and devotion to Christ.  We can be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) or we can “quench the Spirit” (I Thess. 5:19).  The apostle Paul could pray for the Ephesians that they would be “strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to . . .know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16-19; cf. 1:15-19; Col. 1:9-11).  To be filled with the Spirit is to have “the love of God” which “has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5); it is to have “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7); it is to have “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter. 1:8).  To be filled with the Spirit is to have the fruit of the Spirit in abundance.  But Jesus emphasizes that all of this is contingent on our loving Him and keeping His word.

The modern church is not experiencing the blessing largely because our love for Christ has grown cold.  We are too preoccupied with the things of this world and have largely forgotten Christ.  Too often our Sunday morning worship is mere entertainment and the Wednesday night prayer meeting has largely been abandoned.  We have “a form of godliness” but deny “its power” (II Tim. 3:5).  We have an intellectual knowledge of the truth, but perform the outward duties of religion in a mechanical way.  Our devotion is lukewarm, and the sad result is that there is little evidence of the Holy Spirit working among. Us.

Much of the blame lies squarely at the feet of pastors.  In most churches the congregation looks to the pastor for direction and guidance in spiritual matters.  The congregations will rarely advance spiritually beyond the pastor.  And if the pastor is spiritually immature, if his own prayer life is wanting and he is not consciously seeking guidance from the Lord, it will be reflected in empty worship and dull, lifeless sermons.  The spiritual life of the congregation languishes while the surrounding world perishes.

What is at stake can hardly be overestimated.  There are human beings who are trapped in sin and are on their way to an eternity in hell.  And much of it is due to the lack of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church.

Oh, that we would heed the words of Christ!  Oh that we would claim the promise!  Oh that the power of the Holy Spirit was a living reality in our churches today!  But it will only happen when we devote ourselves completely to Christ and heed His word.

BELIEVERS NOT LEFT ORPHANS

 

As Jesus continued to reassure His disciples He tells them, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.  A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.  Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:18,19).  He will not leave them “orphans.”  Up until now they were almost little children to Him.  They enjoyed a warm, affectionate relationship with Him; not as equals, but rather like children might have with their fathers.  And now He was about to depart.  Where would that leave them?  He reassures them that even though He was about to be physically removed from them, He would not leave them orphaned.

How this will come about takes several forms.  First He tells them that “I will come to you.”  This almost certainly refers to His post-resurrection appearances to them.  They would see Him, but the world would not.  Luke tells us that “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).  John will go on to relate three of these appearances (cf. John 21:14).

But to return to the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus mentions the significance of His resurrection: “Because I live, you will live also” (v. 19).  The disciples at this point probably did not understand that what Jesus was saying was that He was about to be put to death, but would then rise from the dead.  And what they certainly did not understand was what this would mean for them personally.  What Jesus was about to accomplish, in effect, was the victory over death.  We are fallen sinners.  We live in a sin-cursed world.  Eventually we must all die.  But is there any hope for life after death?  Or is death the end of it?

The Bible makes it clear that death is a result of sin.  When our first parents sinned they alienated themselves from God, and death was the curse that God pronounced on them as a result.  But what the death of Christ did was to make a sacrificial atonement for our sin, and the resurrection of Christ was the proof that God the Father had accepted the sacrifice.  The curse was then removed and now He could live.  And because of that we can live too, if we confess our sins, put our personal trust in Christ as our Savior, and receive the forgiveness of our sins.  “Because I live, you will live also.”

Jesus then went on to draw out a further implication of His resurrection: “And in that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (v. 20).  Here He uses the proposition “in” to describe three relationships: “in My Father,” “you in Me,” and “I in you”; and yet the relationships are not the same.  But what the preposition “in” represents in all three cases is an intimate relationship of some sort.

First He says that “I am in My Father.”  This, of course, takes us into the doctrine of the Trinity, a concept that boggles the human imagination.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three different persons, but share one substance (John 10:30).  Jesus was God incarnate (John 1:1-14; I John 1:1,2); and Jesus possessed the Holy Spirit beyond all measure (John 3:34,35).  Thus Jesus could say that He was “in My Father.”

But He also told His disciples that “you [are] in Me.”  This points to a different kind of close relationship, a legal or judicial one.  When we are baptized “into Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27) we are then “in Christ.”  As a result God the Father views us as a part of Christ and counts us as righteous as Christ Himself.  “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption –“ (I Cor. 1:30).  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to His grace” (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).  Moreover, since we share this privilege with all other believers, collectively we form one body – the body of Christ, of which He is the Head and we are the individual members (I Cor. 12:12-27; Eph. 2:13-21; 4:11-16).

And then Jesus says that “I [am] in you.”  Here He is pointing to our mystical union with Himself, which is realized through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within in our hearts.  “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).  What an awesome thought this is!  That we would have the Spirit of Christ – God eternal, omnipotent and absolutely holy – dwelling within our hearts!   What an awesome privilege, and yet at the same time a responsibility!  And yet that is the blessed experience of every person who has been truly born of God!

Jesus says that “At that day you will know” all of this.  The Greek used here for “know” is gnosesthe, which means to know by observation and experience as opposed to a mental process based on an intuition or information (Abbott-Smith).  The disciples had heard Jesus teach; had a mental grasp of what He was saying.  But after His resurrection and ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, they would know by actual experience.  The abstract truth would become a living reality.

The question is, is it a living reality for us?  Have we experienced the blessing and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives?  For too long the modern church has neglected prayer and tried to “go on its own,” with disastrous results.  Churches are dying and the surrounding culture is sinking deeper into a cesspool of sin.  What is desperately needed is a revival – a genuine revival – a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church.  But that will only come when we get down on our knees, go humbly to God in prayer, acknowledging our sins and our shortcomings, and ask Him to return and to bless.  It is only then that we can expect to see real spiritual life and vitality in the church – to see the word being preached with real unction and convicting power, to see believers being lifted from their spiritual slumber and apathy, and see sinners coming to genuine repentance and faith in Christ.  Even so come, Lord Jesus!

“All our knowledge, sense and sight

Lie in deepest darkness shrouded

Till thy Spirit breaks our night

With the beams of truth unclouded.

Thou alone to God canst win us;

Thou must work all good within us.”

Tobias Clausnitzer

(tr. by Catherine Winkworth)

THE PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

 

Jesus has been seeking to comfort His disciples and to show them that it really was to their advantage that He leave them to go to be with the Father.  And an important part of that was the promise to send the Holy Spirit.

“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” (John 14:147,18; NKJV).  The Greek word translated here as “Helper” is Parakletos, or “Paraclete,” as it is sometimes transliterated into English; and the commentators have long debated exactly what the word means.  The old King James Version translated it here as “Comforter,” but in I John 2:1 rendered the same word as “Advocate.”  In our present text in John 14, the NASV, ESV and TEV, besides the NKJV, all render it “Helper.”  The NIV, NRSV, NEB and JB all have “Advocate.”  In the New Testament the word only occurs in the writings of John, and in the present passage it translates something that Jesus had probably said in Aramaic.  In the immediate context Jesus obviously wanted to comfort His disciples, but, as the use of the word in John 14:26; 15:26 and 16:7 indicates, there is more to the work of the Holy Spirit than being just a Comforter of legal Advocate.  The Holy Spirit was sent to help us in a variety of ways, and thus the translation “Helper” is probably best.

When Jesus said that the Father would give them “another Helper,” the implication is that the Holy Spirit would be a Helper in the same manner as Jesus Himself.  Jesus will go on to elaborate on that further later on in the Upper Room Discourse, and the rest of the New Testament will describe it even further.  It suffice to say here that just as Jesus taught, directed and comforted His disciples here on earth, the Holy Spirit would continue to do so after Jesus’ departure.  And this is important.  The church is not left to its own resources, and it was never meant to.  We are dependent on the divine power that is communicated to us through the Holy Spirit.

Significantly Jesus makes a special point of calling the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”  He is the Spirit who is truth (I John 5:6), and Who guides us into all truth (John 16:13).  The truth is ultimately God Himself, and His purpose and design in creating the world.  But He is infinite, and we are not; and, to make matters worse, we are fallen sinners, our eyes darkened by sin.  A key role of the Holy Spirit, then, is to reveal the truth to a lost and dying world, and this He does through the preaching of the Gospel; He empowers the preacher and opens the hearts and minds of the listeners to receive the truth.

But his, then, creates a sharp contrast between the church and the world.  Jesus said that the world “cannot receive” the Spirit, “because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (v. 17).  Jesus here, of course, is referring to the situation that will exist after He has ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit is poured out at Pentecost.  But He uses verbs in the present tense in anticipation of the event (grammarians call this “prolepsis”).  Here the conditions of believers and of the world are contrasted.  The world “cannot receive” the Spirit, and the reason given is that “it neither sees Him nor knows Him.”  This, of course, is referring to man in his natural condition, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.  He is spiritually blind.  He does not want to know the truth because he wants to live his life apart from God.  And because the Holy Spirit is invisible, and works inside the heart, the unregenerate sinner knows nothing of His presence and operation.

But how vastly different it is with the person who has been born of God!  “ . . .but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”  He comes into the heart and creates spiritual life.  He fills the believer’s heart with a real desire to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him.  And thus ter3e is a real sense in which the believer lives in a different world from that of the non-believer.  The Christian is attuned to a spiritual reality of which the unbeliever is completely unaware.

This, in turn, points to the fact that the church needs to be a spiritual brotherhood of genuine believers who are set apart from the world.  It is supposed to be a believers’ church with a regenerate church membership.  And in its public gatherings, its worship and its life together as believers it needs to make manifest the life of Christ – a genuine reverence for God, a love for the brethren, the fruit of the Spirit.

“There is a scene where spirits blend,

Where friend holds fellowship with friend,

Tho’ sundered far, by faith they meet

Around one common mercy seat.”

Hugh Stowell

Significantly Jesus says that all of this will come about through His intercession.  Having just told them that He is about to depart from them and return to the Father in heaven, he says, “And I will pray [or “ask” – NASV, ESV] the Father, and He will give you another Helper” (v. 16).  And, as it happened, that is exactly what occurred.  After His resurrection Jesus instructed His disciples to wait at Jerusalem “until you are endued with power from on high” (Lu. 24:49).  As Paul would later put it, paraphrasing Psalm 68:18, “When He ascended on high, / He led captivity captive, / And gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8).  The presence of spiritual gifts within the church is proof that Jesus ascended into heaven, and is alive and making intercession there for us.  It is a testimony to the fact that Jesus loves us, He deeply cares for us, and is actively interceding there on our behalf.

And Jesus reassures them that He will ask that this Helper “may abide with you forever” (v. 10).  Jesus was about to depart.  His disciples were filled with dismay.  But Jesus’ departure was both necessary and beneficial to them, as He pointed out to them.  But with the Holy Spirit it would be different.  He would be with us until the very end.

Unfortunately it is too easy for the American church to underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit.  We are proud and self-sufficient – well=known for our “can-do” attitude.  But in the long run we accomplish little apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.  He must bless; He must provide.  America is sinking into a cesspool of sin.  We keep hoping that the next politician will help us out of it.  But ultimately it comes down to the Holy Spirit working in the hearts and lives of individuals, transforming them from within, and giving them spiritual life.

“Showers of blessing,

Showers of blessing we need:

Mercy drops round us are falling,

But for the showers we plead.”

Daniel W. Whittle