Sunday May 24, 2015, St Petri
John 15:26,27; 16:4b-15
26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.
12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
There seems to be both a great thirst for an experience of the Holy Spirit these days, and yet, there also seems to be some fear about the Holy Spirit’s work at times. A lot of churches want to talk about “Spirit”: all they mostly talk about is personal experiences of the Spirit. Other churches want to talk about “Truth”: they are a little afraid of talking about experiences of the Holy Spirit and just want to talk about doctrine and knowing the ‘right’ things.
So, a remedy for our blind spots, or fears or over emphasis on either side is to hear the bible’s teaching on the Holy Spirit: Spirit and Truth. We get the very basics right here in John’s gospel – Who the Spirit is. What he does and how do we receive him.
Who the Holy Spirit is
The first thing to say is that the Holy Spirit is a person not an ‘it’! I do hear people sometimes speak of the Spirit as an ‘it’ – a kind of ‘force’ or impersonal power of God or ‘electrical charge’.
We have never believed this. Jesus never said this! He names the Holy Spirit “he”. From Scripture we have always believed that the One God has revealed himself as three “person” or “faces” – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is very clear in this very part of John’s gospel…
26 “When the Advocate [Holy Spirit] comes, whom I [Jesus] will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he [Holy Spirit] will testify about me [Jesus].
In our Small Catechism), we hear again that the Holy Spirit is not an “it” but a “he”….
“…….the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith.” (Small Catechism, Explanation of the 3rd Article of Apostle’s Creed).
The Holy Spirit is a real person, as Jesus and the father are, in the Trinity.
The Holy Spirit can be grieved.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
We can be ‘insulted’ the Holy Spirit.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth,…. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has …..who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29
The Holy Spirit loves.
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, Romans 15:30.
The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force but a person. In other words, the Holy Spirit is God – another Counsellor, like Jesus; another Advocate, Helper, like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is a divine person in the middle of your life.
This matters because the Bible speaks about us being filled with the Holy Spirit – having joy and power to live in Jesus’ love and holiness.
If you try to get filled with an impersonal force, you go about it in some mechanical or formulaic kind of way. This is how Eastern religions work. To be one with or experience or be filled with God as an impersonal force one must meditate to “empty one’s self” of words and thoughts, and allow “the force” to fill you.
So, if you are seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit as an “it” – some electric charge or impersonal being, then this can only happen as you tick the right boxes – pray in certain ways, sing in certain ways, refrain from certain things to get your life into some kind of place so ‘it’ can come in.
But, if you are filled with a person (the Holy Spirit), you don’t go about emptying the mind and soul but filling the mind and heart with him and his words – words that teach, give and love from a person who prays with and for you with groans to deep to fully perceive to the human heart (Romans 8:26).
Being filled with a person affects everything – the person changes you to be more like him. You have your life transformed by a glorious awareness of who lives in you and for you and you hang on every word he speaks.
This has already happened to you if you are baptised into Christ. This is the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4: 4, 30) – the thing that you can trust to know for sure that you are dwelt in by the Holy Spirit. But baptism is not only a past event – it is a ‘now thing’ of the Holy Spirit. Living in our baptism is living in the power and love of the Holy Spirit.
What he does: The Spirit of Truth
The Holy Spirit is the literal genius behind the Bible. He authored it just as Jesus promised the Apostles he would.
“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, and 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 that I have said to you.” John 14:25-26
“…..no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20
The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. John 6:63
As you embrace the Word of God written by the Spirit through his authors you receive his Word, his truth, his life.
This is why Lutherans place such a huge emphasis on the preached Word and the Word said and done in our Divine Service. This is especially so when it comes to the wonderful means of the Spirit’s grace (Baptism, Absolution, Holy Communion, Blessing).
This is why we are more interested in the words of a song rather than the musical notes. By the Word of the Spirit we receive him as a person and he transforms us from dead sinners, joyless believers, sleepy Christians, sad and grieving and broken people to alive, joyous, awake, comforted and confident people who trust his love, his peace, his comfort, his power, his gifts and we are glad and with him we serve in joy.
No wonder Paul can say, Colossians 3:16 “Be filed with the Word” as he says
“Let the word/message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
And then there is a list of what the Word-filled life looks like
“…..compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” and “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Then he can say in Ephesians 5:18 –
“be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit”.
And then he goes on the list of what being filled with the Spirit looks like…
“…admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks.
It’s the same list!
Being filled with the Spirit is being filled with the Word.
Being filled with the Word is being filled with the Spirit.
Being filled with the Word of the Apostle’s (the ‘Apostolic Word’) is being filled with the Spirit because he is a person and he speaks the truth, and as Jesus said the truth sets us free (John 8:32).
The Spirit makes the Word live in your life – first in Baptism and then ongoing. He is the difference between simply reading the Word and sensing the Word – the Word coming alive off the page in your heart.
“It is one thing to read the Scriptures and another to have the person of the Holy Spirit come to you and reveal the person, Jesus Christ to you”
(Tim Keller, Sermon on The Holy Spirit…..
Even though this is wonderful and without his Word and power we would not be anything, the Holy Spirit does even more.
If this was all he did, he would be kind of a consultant at best – someone you employ to come in at certain times to give you what you need.
The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, is also a ‘Counsellor’ – OR Paraclete, Advocate or Comforter. Different translations have different words and that shows that the original word is just too big to cover in one English word!
• “Comforter” – comes across in English as being a bit like a nice duna
• “Counsellor” – comes across as being a bit like a therapist
• “Paraclete”, is the Greek word – “Para”, means to be “along-side of”, and “kletos” means to call – to call someone along-side – and it comes from the language of a courtroom – a defense counsel – someone to stand with you and defend you, argue your case, fight for you.
So, the Paraclete is your legal advocate. He represents you before your accusers and he is loyal to you and he is for you. He debates. He defends and makes a case against your enemies.
Who are the enemies?
The Evil one who accuses us all day and night before God the Father. But even more, the old Adam within – our sinful attitudes and dispositions in the internal war we face (Romans 7).
The Holy Spirit defends us mainly against our enemies within:
He defends us against our fear of God’s judgement helping us trust that we are never not loved by our heavenly Father.
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.[a] And by him we cry, “Abba,[b] Father.” Romans 8:15
In legal words he “testifies” before God’s royal court that we belong. He give us no doubt that we are God’s loved people – no matter what.
16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16
We can see in Hebrews 12 that the Spirit not only defends us against our enemies without and within, he also sits us down, confronts us and speaks sense into us. Like a good friend or a faithful marriage partner.
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children….. God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.. (Hebrew 12:10-12)
See how the Spirit argues against you at times to keep you on track.
He has to. 1 John 3:20 we hear that God is greater than our hearts. Our hearts do not like grace – we want to earn it and control it so we get the praise and glory for ourselves. The Holy Spirit comes in and makes the case again for the gospel.
20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:20)
In James 4 the Spirit says that he defends us against temptations. The Holy Spirit within you longs for you to come back to God – leave money, sex, power, greed and return…
“…do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace…..” (James 4:5)
And his standing beside work never stops. Phil 1: Holy Spirit will not stop. He will not let you go. Love with teeth. Sometimes he needs to be against you to be for you.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-4)
He does this by making his Word real for you – not just to give you a nice experience – but to complete his work begin in you at baptism until the final resurrection.
A permanent legal advocate. He is for you.
How you receive what he does.
How can you be sure that you are receiving the benefits of the Holy Spirit in your life making you who you can be and should be? The Paraclete tells you of the other One who stands beside you and with you. This paraclete is Jesus.
In 1 John 2:1 we hear that Jesus is also named a “paraclete”. John says, “We have one who speaks to the Father in our defence” – same as the Holy Spirit – the paraclete – a permanent advocate.
The Holy Spirit takes the work of Jesus, the Advocate/Paraclete/Counsellor, Helper – our permanent loyal loving Saviour and makes it current, real, “now” for you as he does the same loyal, loving, legal advocacy work for you now.
He does this as he calls you to hear Jesus through that Word of the Apostle’s that he provided for all of those of us who have come after them. The Holy Spirit gathers you into Jesus’ body, the church. The Holy Spirit makes you holy by the holy body and blood sacrificed for all sin and enlightens your inner world – body, mind and spirit.
He pounds into you to defend you, teach you, comfort you, counsel you as you live with the desires within your own heart that resist the gospel and the Enemy outside of you who loved to tempt and trap you so that you might.
He pours into you to give special gifts for the good of the body and to create good fruit from your life in the body.
So, no need to fear “Spirit” – no need to fear the special gifts and the good fruit of Holy Spirit at work in people, and no need to downplay or ignore his emphasis on “Truth” – on the Word of Jesus as our centre and source of life and love.
We talk of both and we learn how to let him “dwell in us richly” so that God, Father, Son and Spirit get all the glory for any good, and change, and wonderful gift, and sermon, words of witness and our very lives.
Friend, “Let the Holy Spirit dwell in you richly”. Hang on every word he speaks. Live a Word-filled life. All faith, church, forgiveness, healing and love depends on him. Amen.
Skim through John 14 and 15 taking note of;
the names given to the Holy Spirit
the roles of the Holy Spirit
Share your awareness/understanding of the role the Holy Spirit plays in the Christian life.
Share your experience of the help/power of the Holy Spirit in your life so far.
Where are you on that scale between putting the emphasis on experiencing the Holy Spirit’s power and presence and that emphasis on the Spirit working through the Word and good teaching/doctrine?
What did you think about the difference between calling the Holy Spirit an “it” rather than a person. Have you been aware of this difference in the past?
I said that seeking to “plug” into an impersonal force will mean us doing or praying or not doing things in order to get ourselves plugged into this impersonal; “force” (the Holy Spirit as an “it”) will make it all about us – hard work, emptying ourselves…… But being filled with a person is being filled with what that person says and does. How do you react to this view?
Work through the sermon looking up the other bible texts and discussing your response to each…..
PRAYER: Spirit of God, open the eyes of our hearts that we may know Jesus better. Amen.