‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’ - John 14 v 15-27
It must have been some surprise when Jesus began to talk to the disciples about another comforter coming after He had gone. It must have been very encouraging, but mysterious. Jesus makes it clear that unless He goes having fulfilled His mission, the Holy Spirit would not come. This would mean that the disappearance of Jesus would be for the disciples a good thing-their mission to evangelize the world would be launched when He came! What is the first thing that they do when the Holy Spirit comes, recorded in Acts 2? It is to preach, to tell others the Good News-and that remains our priority today. Just as with the unbeliever, the idea of God present in man was confusing for the disciples right up to the point when, on the day of Pentecost, they experienced His indwelling for themselves. Upon His descent, no longer was worship of God principally external, but now internal-God became for every Christian an intimate lover and Father. Jesus limited with His human body to being present to just a few, the Holy Spirit brought intimacy for millions of believers. The coming of the Paraclete-our advocate and helper- was not some automatic, impersonal response: He is sent by Jesus, and He is not sent to the world, but to His disciples. He comes into our hearts when we receive Him. However, the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers will affect the world, transforming it through the radical change in behaviour of those He inhabits. He brings to people a sense of sin-this is not a fashionable idea, that someone may be a sinner, but when the Spirit comes to someone that person becomes aware of their sin. This is not in order to condemn, but to bring that person to repent. He exposes, condemns, convicts. Look at the response of those who heard Peter’s message at Pentecost: Acts 2 v 37, ‘’They were cut to the heart and said ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’’ Through faith in Jesus, the believer, now indwelled by the Holy Spirit, is brought freedom from sin-Holy God lives within him or her-the believer is now able to live loving and holy lives in the power of the Spirit-to become Jesus to those around; the defeat of the evil one is made apparent through the victorious living of the Christian. He will also teach them about Jesus and give them the desire to learn: one of the marks of someone who has come to faith is a hunger for the Word. Isn’t it wonderful that the Holy Spirit supports and amplifies and reminds us about Jesus, He who lives to glorify His Father! The Trinity bound, united! We do try to give the members of the Trinity separate roles, but there is a constant overlapping. We may say that the Father is the Creator of the Trinity, yet it is clear that the Son and the Holy Spirit were present at creation, creating alongside. I must emphasise again that the Holy Spirit is God, co-equal with the Son and the Father.
So, from this passage some characteristics of the Holy Spirit-He has many, these are just a few, not an exhaustive list!
1. He is the Spirit of truth. He reveals to us what we should know. How many of us have read our Bibles regularly and we may be hearing a familiar passage for the umpteenth time, but it grabs us as never before and it is like it is the first time we have heard it and the revelation that comes from that passage-that is the Spirit of truth at work! The Word is made living through the Holy Spirit! Truth is also revealed by Him to the inventors, the doctors, great composers, hymn writers, artists and so on: antibiotics, DNA, even electricity have always been here, but the Holy Spirit chose a time to reveal them to humans.
2. He seeks to glorify the Father and the Son. Just as all that Jesus did was to glorify the Father, so all that the Holy Spirit does is to glorify Jesus. The eternal triangle, united in their total self-giving love for each other!
3. He tells us what is to come. As God, the Holy Spirit knows what is to be and prepares us for it. Many of us, I am sure, have had a sense looking back at some terrible event in our lives, that He has prepared us for that. He reveals to us that He is Lord of that situation, that nothing is out of His control, by this act. When my father died, I had a strong sense on leaving him in his hospital bed that this would be the last time we had together-it came as no surprise when the hospital rang, even though they had not said that he was near death and had only been in hospital for a day.
4. His names of Counsellor or Paraclete reminds us that He is here to support, guide, provide, protect those who believe in Jesus. To extend from this, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to change us from within, He gives us the words to pray when we have no words, He even prays in ways too deep for words, by His presence He protects from the domination of the evil one, He can, however, be grieved by what we do or say, He is a person, we are made in His image. He does not have human form as Jesus took on, but He has similar characteristics to Jesus, the perfect human.
5. His ministry is to unleash the powers of the promised kingdom of God in the world. We do not fight this battle alone! Perhaps we feel under siege? In this country through falling church numbers and an increasing anti-Christian sentiment, in other countries through persecution and even death. However, these words re-enforce the notion that the light has come and has spread. Men may prefer bad deeds to good, but the Kingdom of God is on the march, taking strongholds-think of China and the many missionaries who worked there for a lifetime and saw little or no conversions! Now an estimated Christian population in millions! Take time to think of the worldwide view of the church. This country, even, purged on the whole of ‘nominal’ Christians, a radical group of young Christian people, prepared to go perhaps that much further than we have ever needed to go to further the Kingdom!
6. Pictures of the Holy Spirit. We cannot physically see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the effects of His presence. We had Rebecca read to us from Acts 2 last week and that reminded us about the tongues of fire which rested on the disciples at Pentecost. Tongues. The fire is described as tongues. Through this we learn that one of the chief fruits of Spirit is to help us witness to others. What is a witness? It is one who speaks of what he has seen, heard, and experienced. The spirit comes as tongues to strengthen us for our mission, for witness. And, oh, how this witness is needed today! Evil has triumphed because the good have remained silent; pulpits have been silent; parents have been silent. The tongues of fire remind us that God wants bold and fiery saints who are courageous witnesses in a doubting, deceitful, scoffing world. Pray for the courage of tongues, the courage to speak. Frequently, in the Bible He is seen as Ruach, the wind of God, moving and anointing wherever He chooses. We know Him too as the dove, which descended on Jesus at His baptism. 4. Water. Jesus often used water as an image of the Spirit: On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given since Jesus had not yet been glorified (John 7:37-39).
Fourth century theologian, St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, ‘’But why did Christ call the grace of the Spirit water? Because all things are dependent on water; plants and animals have their origin in water. Water comes down from heaven as rain, and although it is always the same in itself, it produces many different effects, one in the palm tree, another in the vine, and so on throughout the whole of creation. It does not come down, now as one thing, now as another, but while remaining essentially the same, it adapts itself to the needs of every creature that receives it. In the same way the Holy Spirit, whose nature is always the same, simple, and indivisible, apportions grace to each man as he wills. Like a dry tree which puts forth shoots when watered, the soul bears the fruit of holiness when repentance has made it worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit. Although the Spirit never changes, the effects of this action, by the will of God and in the name of Christ, are both many and marvellous. The Spirit makes one man a teacher of divine truth, inspires another to prophesy, gives another the power of casting out devils, enables another to interpret holy Scripture. The Spirit strengthens one man’s self-control, shows another how to help the poor, teaches another to fast and lead a life of asceticism, makes another oblivious to the needs of the body, trains another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same. In each person, Scripture says, the Spirit reveals his presence in a particular way for the common good’’.
God bless you and through His Holy Spirit lead you into new experiences of His love and a closer walk with Him!