Midway through His public ministry, Jesus stood in the crowded Jerusalem temple on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles and made an extraordinary promise.
If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, "From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." (JOH 7:37-38)
Jesus was quoting from the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah (JER 2:13; ISA 44:3, ISA 55:1, ISA 58:11). We do not know how many of those who heard these words understood what Jesus was talking about. With the advantage of hindsight, the Apostle John, writing long after the event, explained what the Lord meant.
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. " (JOH 7:39)
Jesus Christ, speaking before the cross, was saying that at some point in the future those who believed in Him would receive the Holy Spirit. But, as John explains, the Spirit would not be given until Jesus had won His victory on the cross.
Not until His last night with the apostles did Jesus again approach the subject of the coming of the Holy Spirit. John 13-17 is known as the Upper Room Discourse. In these chapters, Jesus is preparing His disciples for what would happen after His death and resurrection. He wants them to understand that the power on which He relied, the power by which His life was victorious, will be available to them. And so He introduces them to a new age—the Church Age—and to the two great resources that would make this time unlike any before it: the completed Word of God and the indwelling Spirit of God.
The heart of His message is the soul filled with the Spirit and filled with the Word. Throughout His life on earth, Jesus had relied only on these provisions. With them alone He had met every temptation, every obstacle, every trial. At the very beginning of His public ministry, He had set His course, going into the wilderness filled with the Holy Spirit and answering each of Satan's assaults—not with logic or argument or physical power, but with the Word of God.
Now, He wants these men who will be responsible for taking Christianity to the whole world, to understand that when the Spirit of God and the Word of God meet, they generate divine power that is always a reflection of the life of Jesus Christ.
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. (JOH 14:15)
"Love" here is the present, active, subjunctive of the verb agapao. The active voice means that they must produce the action of the verb; they must choose whether or not to love Him. The present tense means continuous action. The subjunctive mood indicates potential; Jesus is saying, "Maybe you will decide to keep on loving Me, and maybe you won't. But if you do, you will keep My commandments."
"Keep" is tereo, meaning "to guard, to watch over, to preserve, to treasure." We only watch over and guard those things that we value in our lives. Therefore, while obedience is implied in Jesus' words, it is not really the main thrust of this verb. There are other words He could have used for simple obedience. He chose this word because He is emphasizing an attitude of watchfulness, an attitude that values and seeks to preserve His commandments, His Word.
If we really love Jesus Christ, we will guard, preserve, and treasure His Word. The Word will have value to us because it is His Word and we love Him, the person Jesus Christ. If we do not have this kind of personal relationship, then we have religion without reality. But when that intimacy exists and when we treasure His Word, our lives are entirely changed. Life becomes a continuous adventure because we know who we are, why we exist and Who it is Who loves us. When we treasure His Word, we begin to live the same abundant life that He lived.
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever, that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. (JOH 14:16-17)
The word "other" is allos, referring to another of the same kind, the same kind as Jesus Christ. "Helper" is parakletos from para, which means "beside," and kletos, which means "to call." A parakletos was someone who was called to another's side to encourage, to give help, to succor. It is sometimes translated "comforter," sometimes "helper," sometimes "counselor." It can also be translated "encourager."
The Lord Jesus Christ, who is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (HEB 13:8), has promised that He will never leave us and will never forsake us (HEB 13:5-6). When He promises that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever, we can take that promise to the bank. God—who never changes—has given His Word. The fact that He will be with us forever means that no believer is ever alone—ever. We may think we are alone, we may feel lonely, but we are never alone.
"The Spirit of truth" is one of many names by which the Holy Spirit is known in the Bible. Among those names are "the Spirit of wisdom and understanding" and "the Spirit of counsel and strength" (ISA 11:2), "the eternal Spirit" (HEB 9:14), "Spirit of glory" (1PE 4:14), "Spirit of life" (ROM 8:2), "Spirit of holiness" (ROM 1:4), "Spirit of wisdom" (EPH 1:17), and "Spirit of grace" (HEB 10:29).
Three times in this discourse, Jesus identifies the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth (JOH 14:17; JOH 15:26, JOH 16:13). 1JO 5:7 says that "the Spirit is the truth." In His closing prayer for the disciples—and for all those who would believe on Him through them—Jesus asks the Father to sanctify them in the truth. Then He adds this explanation: "Thy Word is truth" (JOH 17:17).
This title—the Spirit of truth—reminds us that what the Holy Spirit does in us, He does through the truth, the Word of God.
When the Lord promises that He who has been with them will be in them, He is telling these disciples that a marvelous, miraculous change is about to take place. The Spirit of God had been with them by virtue of the fact that He indwelt and empowered Jesus Christ during His 33 years on this earth. When they stood near Jesus, they were standing near the Holy Spirit. When they saw the power in Jesus, they were seeing the power of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus is telling them that some day soon the Holy Spirit would come to indwell and empower each of them. That day was the Pentecost described in Acts 2.
When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me, and you will bear witness also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. (JOH 15:24-27)
Now the Lord begins to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in this new age that is about to dawn. When He comes, Jesus says, the Spirit will bear witness of Christ.
First, He will bear witness to the believer. ROM 8:16 says His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. The Holy Spirit witnesses to us of the relationship that we have with God. He emphasizes to us the provisions that we have in Christ. It is because of the Holy Spirit that we are able to cry "Abba, Father," to the Almighty God.
Then the Holy Spirit bears witness through us. This is the ministry of evangelism or what Paul calls in 2CO 5:14-21 the ministry of reconciliation. We are, Paul says, ambassadors of Christ.
The progression here is important. We must listen to the Holy Spirit's witness to us before we have anything to say to a lost and hurting world. If we are not listening to the still, small voice of God the Holy Spirit telling us what we have in Jesus Christ, if we have allowed the enemy to rob us of our assurance and conviction and inner strength, if we have not trusted in His Word, and if we have denied the Spirit's ministry to us, how can we expect Him to have a ministry through us to other people? How can we hope to tell other people that Jesus Christ is the answer if we are confused ourselves? How can we hope to give other people encouragement if we are discouraged? We have to allow God the Holy Spirit to perform His work in us first.
But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go I will send Him to you. (JOH 16:7)
"Advantage" is the Greek sumphero. It means "to hold everything together." When the Lord Jesus Christ said, "It is to your advantage that I go away," the disciples' faces probably fell. They did not want Him to go away. We would not have either. When He said, "It is to your advantage," He was saying, "It is so that you can hold everything together that I am going away."
Jesus is promising that the Holy Spirit will come to make us able to cope, able to function under the strain of life, to handle the everyday disappointments, attacks, and temptations. The Holy Spirit is the source of the supernatural power that propels us and is the only possible explanation of how any of us are able to live the Christian way of life. But the Lord reminds the disciples that without His death and resurrection, there would be no life for anyone.
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (JOH 16:8-11)
"Convict" is from elegcho, a word used for ancient courtroom cross-examinations. It means to totally and completely refute an opponent. Who is the opponent here? It is Satan, the adversary, the accuser, the slanderer, the liar, the murderer (1PE 5:8; REV 12:10; JOH 8:44). The Holy Spirit's first work in men is that of conviction. To convict means to make the truth of the Gospel clear to the unbeliever, so that he knows the choices before him. He convicts unbelievers of three things:
1. Sin. The sin here is unbelief. Jesus said men have sinned "because they do not believe in Me." The first thing the Holy Spirit wants the unbeliever to know is that it is a sin to reject Jesus Christ.
2. Righteousness. The righteousness is the victory of Jesus Christ on the cross. The second thing the Holy Spirit wants the unbeliever to know is that Jesus Christ is victorious in the angelic conflict and that the only basis of righteousness for man is Christ's work on the cross.
3. Judgment. The judgment is the eternal separation from God which is coming because Satan, the ruler of this world, has been judged. The third thing the Holy Spirit wants the unbeliever to know is that each of us chooses for ourselves whether we will share in the eternal damnation of Satan or in the eternal glory of Christ.
If you are an unbeliever, the Holy Spirit has three things to tell you. He will not tell you where Cain got his wife. He will not give you the illumination to answer the exact time of the writing of the book of Daniel or whether there were two or three Isaiahs or any of the other theological disputes people get caught up in. All He wants you to know is: (1) it is a sin to reject Jesus Christ; (2) the only righteousness that counts with God is what Christ won on the cross; and (3) Satan has been judged and if you reject Christ, you will share his destiny.
I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose it to you. (JOH 16:12-14)
After He has convicted us for salvation and we have believed, the Holy Spirit becomes our companion and guide. He will not mystically pour truth into us or visit us with rapturous feelings of ecstasy. His mission is to guide us into the truth, but we have to make ourselves available to His leading. This means we must study the Word. As we study, the Holy Spirit will enlighten the eyes of our heart (EPH 1:18) so that the Bible will begin to make sense to us. He will teach us that which we study. He will help us recall that which we learn.
When the Lord Jesus Christ at the Feast of Tabernacles first hinted at the coming of the Holy Spirit, His call went out to all who were thirsty. His promise was that the Spirit would quench the thirst of everyone who believed in Him. "He who believes in Me" is the condition on which the promise is fulfilled.
If you are an unbeliever, you will never know genuine contentment in life. You will never know the moment-by-moment stability that comes from having the thirst of a parched soul quenched by God the Holy Spirit.
If you are a Christian and you have gone through this day in fear, in defeat, battered and blown by the winds of life, then you have not believed in Jesus Christ today. You have doubted Him, and if you doubted Him, your spiritual thirst was not quenched.
When we let the Holy Spirit satisfy us, He will give us the opportunity to satisfy others. That same water that quenches our spiritual thirst will quench the thirst of others around us. It will widen from a trickle to a stream and from a stream to a river, a river that will refresh many. As the water flows, the Holy Spirit's mission is accomplished: Jesus Christ is glorified.