The Work of the Holy Spirit


Sermon Text: John 16:5-15
Sermon Recording: CLICK HERE to listen
Main Points:
I. The Holy Spirit brings to us a great benefit (vs. 5-7)
II. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (vs. 8-11)
III. The Holy Spirit guides the believers into all the truth (vs. 12-15)

I’d like to remind you that in four weeks’ time, it’ll be another Easter Sunday on which we’ll thank God for Jesus’ resurrection and all its spiritual blessings bestowed upon us. By faith, we share Jesus’ victory and, by His grace, we follow His glorious way. But before the joy of Easter, we remember the Lord’s death on the cross. Alongside His death for us sinners, we also remember His arrest and suffering. As we follow these chapters of John’s Gospel, I mean, chs. 13-17, which is usually referred to as ‘Jesus’ farewell discourse,’ His arrest is about to take place. We’re only a chapter and a half away from Jesus’ arrest and suffering. The Master is about to leave His disciples; the time for His departure is at hand. Once that moment comes, there’ll be no more time to spend with His disciples, let alone teach them or pat their back for their encouragement. So, saying the words of this section we’ve just read, Jesus is counting every second and giving His last and important message for them to remember.

I believe that the disciples have sensed His imminent and inevitable departure, hearing a change in Jesus’ tone, feeling a strange tension in His words. When their Master began this farewell discourse by washing their feet, they were surprised, wondered. When He talked about His going away, they were still puzzled, not really knowing what He was talking about. Then, hearing His words for them to love one another (as in ch. 13) and to not be troubled but believe in Him (as in ch. 14), then, to know that Jesus, their Master, is the True Vine, thus, they should abide in Him (as in ch. 15), the disciples have become troubled and worried. Then, as we heard last Sunday, Jesus says to them that the world will hate them because they are of Jesus and not of the world. Hearing all these, they are now sad, sorrowful, realising that Jesus truly means that He is going to leave them soon!

The reason I remind you of the background situation of today’s text is that we seem to easily miss or forget such an acute tension associated with the words of these verses. Missing such a nuance, we might miss the urgency of the Lord’s message; we might miss the Lord’s intention of telling this message to us. As He counted every second, He counted every word and intended it to be planted onto our heart and yield His kingdom in us. Every word is so precious as His last minute with His disciples was precious. So, grasping His teaching is important and essential for us Christians as Jesus spared such a precious minute of His last moment to teach this to His disciples and to us through them.

So, we cannot let it go by or miss any of this message, but to listen attentively and know what the Lord teaches about the Holy Spirit. Listening to Jesus’ words, I pray that you may see the benefit of the Holy Spirit’s coming to us as the Son returns to His Father. In addition, I pray that the Lord may open your spiritual eyes to see the important work of the Holy Spirit, that is, to convict the world of its sin and to guide Christians to all the truth about Jesus and His saving grace.

As we begin and consider this section, we hear Jesus addressing His disciples’ sadness in vs. 5-6. As I said earlier, Jesus’ disciples have realised that their Master’s warning of His departure is true and it seems imminent than later. They’re sad because their Teacher is leaving. Yet, they haven’t got an idea of the coming death of Jesus. They’re sad simply because, if Jesus leaves them, their dream of reigning together with Jesus in a restored Israel would disappear and their three-year-long training would be lost. This is why Jesus points out and says that no one considers the meaning of His departure and its spiritual significance.

Like these disciples, we often become sad and discouraged when things go differently than our expectation. When our prayers seem to vaporise somewhere between us and God, we feel down and sorrowful. We say, ‘I need this; I want this be done in this or that way,’ but the Lord doesn’t seem to be in favour of our ideas for certain things. Then, we become anxious and disappointed. When we feel this way, when things aren’t in the way we want, we hardly ask the Lord why it is so or what His plan is. Being discouraged, we tend to turn our eyes further away from God rather than seeking Him and asking His plan for us. In this sense, Jesus’ disciples represent all of us. Some people say that if they were with the Lord, in the midst of those disciples, they would’ve been different from them. But that’s wrong! Every one of us would repeat exactly what those disciples have done and said.

To these disciples, our Lord Jesus says in v. 7, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth.” He means, ‘although you don’t understand Me, despite you never ask Me what My intention is for you, although your ill attitude to Me, your indifference to My plan disappoints Me, I tell you the truth.’ It must’ve been a great displeasure for the Lord to see His people showing continuous disinterest in their heavenly Father’s plan for them. Consider how awful it might be for parents to see their child never showing any interest in his father or mother, never asking how they are or never sharing with them what’s going on in his life. But remember how patient parents could be toward their child despite his such a disheartening attitude. Listen to the Lord in Lk. 13:34, speaking about this, how stubborn His people have been to their Lord: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Jesus knows that such has always been the attitude of His people. And again, seeing His disciples filled with sorrow, He must’ve been greatly disheartened; yet, He says to them, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth.” Oh, how gracious He is! How sweet this word He said, ‘nevertheless’! The whole gospel could fit into this twelve-letter word, or even another word that is much shorter than this, that is, ‘but,’ as found in some other English translations. Despite our fallenness, in spite of our lack of interest in knowing our Lord and Creator, He comes to us and covers our sins with His grace, and leads us to repentance and faith and to receive His eternal life, adopting us into His family!

In addition to this gracious word, ‘nevertheless,’ our Lord Jesus reveals His gracious and grand plan for His disciples, saying, “it is to your advantage that I go away.” His only purpose is our well-being and His departure from His disciples is to their advantage, for their benefit. Sometimes God seems to be distant, but the only purpose of our God for us is to train us to grow mature in faith, in our dependence on our gracious and faithful Father. ‘I go away, but it is to your advantage,’ says Jesus. And He continues, “for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

I want you to stop for a moment and consider Jesus’ words. And let me ask you these questions; why would it be a benefit to the disciples, thus, to us, if Jesus is not with us but only the Holy Spirit is? Why would it be our advantage that Jesus leaves us? What if both are with us? Wouldn’t that be a double advantage?

Truth is that with the Holy Spirit alone with us, we’ll know faith that saves, and grow and enjoy our Lord’s spiritual blessings. If Jesus was here with us, then, all Christians would be in a great difficulty with faith. There would be no unity among believers. Why? Because Jesus would be at one location at a time and His limited physical presence would cause a great disunity, discomfort, discontentment among Christians. People who are close to where Jesus is would boast of their status and claim their assured salvation because of the near presence to Jesus, while many others in the world would despair over inability to see or touch or listen to the Lord. Many would’ve remained in desolation for their isolation from Him. They might doubt their salvation, questioning whether faith alone would save them.

Also, if Jesus was here with us on earth while the Holy Spirit works alongside Him, then, the Holy Spirit would be regarded as a second-degree, if not a useless, ‘agent’ rather than a Person of the Triune Godhead. This is because of our nature that drags us to live by sight than by faith. We follow what is visible and touchable than holding onto what is hoped for or not seen. The Son who is with us on earth would get all our attention – I don’t think Jesus could do anything about that because such is our nature – and so many people would reject the way of biblical faith only to touch Jesus with their hands and see Him with their eyes. Then, the biblical faith which is ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’ will no longer be appealing to most people on earth.

Graciously, however, such is not the case. Jesus the Son is on the throne in heaven, and intercedes for us while the omnipresent Spirit of God indwells Christians, making us His home together with the Father and the Son. By His revelation, we not only know but also grow in faith which is the very ‘assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ Wherever we are, we’re at home with the Holy Spirit because He is with each follower of Jesus. No matter what circumstances, no time limit applies, each believer can directly access to the Father through the Son by the power and ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit! What a great benefit this is for all Christians!

Also, every Christian share exactly same, equal and great benefit through the indwelling Spirit of God. No one has more of the Spirit, none lacks His presence or power. All who believe in Jesus have received one Spirit as we have “one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor. 8:6).

This is the truth Jesus reveals to us. Despite our indifference or disinterest in His gracious and grand plan for us, nevertheless, He lay down His life for us (His sheep) to bring us (who are stubborn and short-sighted sheep) into His fold, His bosom, His eternal kingdom. And He sent to us the Holy Spirit who brings to us an amazingly great benefit of the Father and the Son!

As you see this great benefit and advantage bestowed on us with the coming of the Holy Spirit, you need to know two specific works or ministries the Spirit of God does carry out. Actually, the ministry of the Spirit is one, but, for the sake of better understanding, we’ll divide it into two. And the first is that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin as vs. 8-11 teach.

Coming into the world, the Spirit of God exposes or reproves sin to the eyes and ears of the world. Whereas the world thinks sin as not following a certain rules or way, the Holy Spirit exposes that unbelief is sin; disapproving Jesus as the Son of God, thus, not bowing to Him in worship is sin. Sin is unbelief rather than committing individual sins. The Apostle John has explained this earlier in 3:18, saying, “Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

In addition to convicting sin, the Holy Spirit also convicts righteousness to the world. This righteousness is of Jesus. The world and people who belong to its prince who is the devil not only deny Jesus but also condemn Him as a mere man or demoniac. They ridicule Jesus and His words, ridiculing His church. They also hate Him and all who uphold His words. But the Holy Spirit makes Jesus’ righteousness clear to their eyes, showing how innocent He was while He was here on earth, but unfairly tried and crucified. The world’s hatred toward Jesus the righteous Lord proves His goodness. Also, Jesus’ righteousness is evident with the lives of dedicated Christians. The Holy Spirit presents Christians so that the world may watch what the Holy Spirit does to the believers. In a word, Christian’s life presents Jesus’ righteousness.

Also the Spirit of God exposes judgment to the world. It is like what happens in a court room. The convict is indicted for sin against the standard to which the convict is required to conform. Then, a verdict is sentenced for the convict. Concerning this judgment, John clarifies it in a plain language in 3:19-20 in these words, “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” The Spirit of God who has come to us exposes the judgment under which this world is.

Moreover, judgment is exposed to the world as the world sees more sinners are taken out of its grip and brought to Jesus’ light. This indicates Satan’s defeat by Jesus’ death and resurrection. His stronghold has been broken down and Christ’s kingdom expands rapidly. The Lord has already announced it while He was still on earth as recorded in Lk. 10. There, receiving those 72 disciples He had sent out for preaching the gospel to various towns, Jesus said this: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” Bringing sinners to Jesus through repentance and faith, taking them out of the hand of Satan and engrafting them onto Jesus, the Holy Spirit convicts judgment to the world.

At the same time, the Spirit guides the believers into all the truth as vs. 12-15 tell us. After all, the Holy Spirit is our Helper and Jesus sent Him to us for our benefit. He guides us to the green pastures and quiet waters to have the joy and blessing of Jesus’ truth.

Talking about Jesus’ truth, His word is the truth. Regarding His word, so many Christians say that it is a bottomless well of blessings. There’s no need of digging it in; it overflows to whomever seeks the Lord. And the Spirit guides us to this word of God and Jesus, helps us to drink it and be nourished by it. He guides us to realise that the word of the Lord tastes sweeter than honey! Only by the Spirit of the truth can Christians drink the truth, digest the truth and rest in the truth of Jesus. After all, Jesus is the truth (as Jn. 14:6 says), and the word is truth (as Jn. 17:17 testifies), and the Holy Spirit is ‘the Spirit of truth’ (three times, John calls the Spirit as the Spirit of truth in 14:17; 15:26 and here in 16:13). So, where the Holy Spirit is at work, there must be truth. In other words, we Christians dwell in the truth as the Holy Spirit indwells us.

By the way, as I mentioned earlier, convicting the world of sin and guiding Christians to all the truth are two parts of the Holy Spirit’s one ministry. He convicts sinners like us, exposing our unbelief as sin, and brings us to Christ through faith. Once we’re in Jesus, He constantly helps us and guides us to all the truth about Jesus the Saviour and Lord and the Father. This is the work of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent for our great benefit.

In closing, let me again remind you of the background situation of this message of the Lord. Jesus is counting every second, and so is He with every word He says here. As He wanted His disciples to know the purpose of His absence and the presence of the Holy Spirit with them, you and I should and must always understand the truth that we’re surrounded by the mighty and gracious hand of God. The Father sent His only Son to us to die for us so that we may have His eternal life; the Son revealed His love for us and taught His truth to us and sent the Spirit of God to us; and now, the Holy Spirit indwells us, stays with us always, knowing everything of us, thus, interceding for us with groanings too deep for words!

I pray that you remember every word of Jesus and understand what is expounded to you in today’s sermon. But if you can’t be sure of your memory, please remember just one word, that is, ‘nevertheless.’ ‘Nevertheless, I tell you the truth,’ said Jesus, meaning, ‘although you don’t give Him enough appreciation, although you don’t follow Him enough, although you even forget His words, I will continue in helping you, teaching you, guiding you, and upholding you with My truth.’ And how He does it? Through the Holy Sprit who lives in you and through His ministry of opening up Jesus’ word to you! Praise God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit! ***

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