The Son Promises the Spirit (John 14:1-31)

way-truth-lifeThis is a Bible study on the passage in the gospel of John where Jesus promises to give the Holy Spirit to his disciples after he has departed from them to be with his heavenly Father. To understand this post, you should stop and read John 14:1-31 before moving on.

Jesus gives several reasons for trusting God in John 14:1-14.  First, in the Father’s house there are many dwelling places (sometimes translated “rooms”) so that we will dwell in the house of the Lord—with the Lord—forever. Second, since Jesus is going to prepare a place for us in heaven, he will certainly return for us to bring us to that prepared place where Jesus is about to go. Third, Jesus assures us that we (his disciples) know the way to the Father because Jesus is the way. If we know Jesus, then we will find our way to heaven to be with God forever. The way to the Father is through the Son—Jesus Christ. Fourth, we can be assured that we know God because we have seen the Father in the Son—Jesus Christ. Fifth, Jesus says that we can trust God because Jesus speaks the words of God. If we trust Jesus, then we are assured that we can trust God because the Father is speaking and working through Jesus. Sixth, if we are tempted to lose faith that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father, we have reason to believe because the Father is working through the Son his miraculous signs. Jesus’ signs testify to the Father’s work in him, and Jesus’ teaching about the Father. Seventh, if we do anything in Jesus’ name and it comes to pass, we know that the Father is glorifying the Son as the Son glorifies the Father through his continuing work in his disciple’s works.

But some might say, “But that was for Jesus’ disciples!  What difference does it make to me, here and now, that Jesus has prepared a place for his disciples in the place where he and the Father dwell (Jn 14:2)?”  In other words, how does it affect your view of your life in this world?  Happiness and assurance that I will be with God forever are what I receive for believing that Jesus is preparing a dwelling place for me with God in heaven. Therefore I don’t have to worry about my life being defined by the things in this life—the size of my house, my bank account, my happiness with my church congregation where I serve. Those things are important, but only so far as they are means of providing for the material and spiritual needs of my family. But in the grand scheme of eternity they are of miniscule importance. My view of this life should be radically altered by the knowledge the Jesus is preparing for all his disciples heavenly dwellings. Most of all, I can be assured of the Father’s love for me, and that Jesus has me on this earth for a short time and for the short assignment of being his ambassador.

Jesus gave us a “hard saying when he told his audience, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6).  Why not?  What does this say about God and people?  In other words, Jesus is saying that no one comes to God except through Jesus. Why is this so? Because Jesus is the exact image and representation of God. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life because he is God in the flesh. No other person, regardless of how revered they are for their ethical or religious teachings, can claim such a thing and back it up with resurrection. Instead of asking why God didn’t provide others ways, truths, and lives to himself, we should rather praise God for giving sinners himself in Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. How merciful God demonstrated himself to be when he sent his only Son into the world to die a death for sinners and thereby reconcile the world to himself. God has done it all. Jesus is all that is necessary. That is “why not”.

For many people, including many professing Christians, exclusive claims like these about Christ are troublesome? Do they trouble you?  If so, why? If not, what would you say to those who find them unhelpful today?  Such exclusive truth claims are offensive in our day. In fact, they have always been offensive to the world in every age. But we live in a post-Christian culture (not a post-Christian age since God is still working mightily in other parts of the world), and claims to exclusive truth violate the relativism, multiculturalism, and spirit of tolerance that dominates the thinking of worldly people. But Christ’s claims do not bother me, although that is not the same as saying that suffering the consequences of proclaiming such a message in our hostile culture bothers me. No one likes to be marginalized or persecuted in word or deed. So what should we say to those who find Christ’s exclusiveness unhelpful today? Instead of asking why God didn’t provide others ways, truths, and lives to himself, we should rather praise God for giving sinners himself in Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life. How merciful God demonstrated himself to be when he sent his only Son into the world to die a death for sinners and thereby reconcile the world to himself. God has done it all. Jesus is all that is necessary. That is “why not”.

Jesus said that he and his Father and “one.”  What difference does it make to you whether or not Jesus and the Father are one in their essence?  Look, if Jesus and the Father are not one in their essence (as the Greek of the Nicene creed reads: homoousias), then Jesus was not fully God. But that would disqualify him from being able to atone for the sins of men. If Jesus and the Father are not one in essence, it also has the effect of shrouding God the Father in darkness and mystery, because it means that we cannot look to Jesus to see the Father. If they are not one in essence, then they are different in essence. And that leaves us without the fullness of revelation from God. God may have spoken to us in the prophets and in diverse and various ways in ages past. But if Jesus and the Father are not one in essence, then God has not fully revealed himself to us. Jesus would be one step closer to God rather than the reflection of God himself. If Jesus and the Father are not one in essence, then I would not be a Christian, because then it would be wrong to worship him because he wouldn’t be God.

Look carefully at the promises Jesus gives in John 14:12-14.  What do Jesus’ promises have to do with your life personally?  These are difficult verses because we are tempted to read that they mean we will do flashier miracles than Jesus did if we believe in him. But surely that is not the case, despite what the TV preachers may have you believe about them and ourselves. It is possible that Jesus means that because he is going away to the Father and will only now (in the age of the last days) be with us in the presence of the Holy Spirit, then we as his representatives in this fallen world are to spread out over the earth and multiply the ministry of the gospel to an unbelieving world. Jesus is God, but he is only one man, and he is bound by time and space in terms of his incarnated bodily nature. Now that his Spirit dwells in the hearts of believers all over the globe, we can now be more places than he could all by himself. Jesus, by his Spirit in our hearts, now works these “greater” works all over the world and in a ministry that spans the entire age. This is how our works can be “greater” than those Jesus performed while on the earth during his first coming. This means for me that God is working great works through my life by the power of the Holy Spirit. What a privilege to be used by God as a humble servant in his kingdom who gets to participate in these “greater” works!

How is the Holy Spirit different from a Cosmic Therapist (Jn 14:15-17, 25-26)?  Christian sociologist Christian Smith, who studies the de facto religion of many American evangelicals today, has coined a phrase for the new religion people walk away with from their churches: moralistic therapeutic deism. The Holy Spirit is different than all of these labels. He is especially different because he is not a “counselor” in the sense that a therapist is a counselor. Rather he is a counselor in the sense that a lawyer is a legal counselor for a defendant. That is why many translations opt to translate the Greek paracletos (Paraclete) as advocate. An advocate is not a cosmic therapist, but one who pleads our case and our cause before someone else. The Holy Spirit, our Advocate, pleads or case as sinners yes, but as forgiven sinners sheltered under the blood of Christ’s sacrificial, penal, substitutionary atonement on the cross. He is our legal defense. The Holy Spirit is also our Advocate in that he helps us to live the Christian life. He reminded the apostles of Jesus’ teaching so they could accurately record it for the Church. He reminds believers today of Christ’s teaching that is hid in their hearts so they may repent and obey. He is not merely a coach or therapist whose main goal is to artificially prop up our self-esteem and give us a high (and inaccurate) view of ourselves. The only “therapy” the Holy Spirit gives the therapy of Christ’s forgiveness and heartfelt transformational understanding that brings us to an assurance of peace with God.

So how is the Holy Spirit different from an ambiguous force?  Surely the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit was not the influence behind George Lucas’s idea of “The Force” in the Star Wars saga. The Force was an energy field. The Force was an “it”, not a “who”. The Force was the glue that held a panentheistic world together. The Holy Spirit is a person—a personal spirit. He is the Spirit of God and the third person of the Trinity. Because he is personal, he has a personality, emotions, will, intellect. Contrary to may popular Christian charismatic and Pentecostal teaching, he is not the energy or mode of God as God works in the world. Again, the Holy Spirit is a who, not an it.

Let’s look next at the subject of prayer.  What might be the Holy Spirit’s role in the answered prayers and great works Jesus promises us in John 14:12-13?  The Holy Spirit’s role in these great works that Jesus promised is that he is God (and God’s power) working in and through the agency of the believer to accomplish these great works that bring glory to the Triune God. Regarding prayer, when a believer asks for anything in God’s name through prayer, it is the indwelling Holy Spirit in the believer that cleanses and brings that prayer to God. In a sense, the Spirit of God sanctifies our requests before presenting them to the Father as an offering of obedience, service, and petition.

Although Jesus is going to leave his disciples shortly, he has promised to return in a number of ways: (1) He’ll return shortly when he rises from the dead (Jn 14:19); (2) He’ll return in the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is one with him and the Father, carries on Jesus’ work, and will be the presence of God within each believer (Jn 14:16-20); and (3) He’ll return at the end of history (Jn 14:3). Why should each of these returns give us confidence?  The short answer is because Jesus is ever-present with his people. He has never ever left us, and he never will leave us. The darkest day in history was the Saturday after the crucifixion—the day that Jesus was dead. For on the third day when he first returned in glorious resurrection, there has never again been a day without the bodily or spiritual presence of Christ with the Church. Although we live in the age of the Spirit (when Jesus is present with us in Spirit), we long for the day when he will return from heaven so we may finally be in his complete presence (body and spirit) forever. When we doubt that Jesus will someday return because the wait has been so long, we can look to his previous promises to come and how he kept his promises. This can give us confidence that he will keep his final promise to come again at the end of the age.

The Holy Spirit tends to be the mysterious person of the Trinity.  How does John 14:25-26 help us understand the Holy Spirit’s role in the writing of New Testament books like John’s gospel?  This promise was specifically directed to the apostles who followed Jesus during his earthly ministry. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would help them recall all that Jesus did and taught. This is an exceedingly important promise, because without the Holy Spirit’s guidance and inspiration of the apostles’s recollection of the teachings and life of Jesus, we would have cause to doubt that their memories were good enough for us to understand Jesus. But Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit to guide the apostles is the basic for the doctrine of the trustworthiness of Scripture. The Spirit of Jesus saw to it that the NT would be accurate, trustworthy, sufficient, and complete.

Jesus always couples his teaching (what the believe) with obedience (what to do).  In John 14:15, 23 Jesus repeatedly connects loving him with obeying him. What are some of the commands and teaching we’re supposed to obey out of love for him? Why is it impossible to love Jesus without obeying him?  Jesus taught his disciples the “new commandment”—to love one another (Jn 13:34). He illustrated and demonstrated this commandment by washing the feet of his disciples (Jn 13:1-20). We must love one another by humbling ourselves in service to our brothers and sisters. This is the way of the Master. In other places, Jesus taught we are to obey him be keeping the law, and the sum of the whole law is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two commandments all the Law and the Prophets depend (Mt 22:37-40). Jesus also taught his followers that the work of God is to believe on the one whom he has sent—Jesus (Jn 6:28-29). Jesus taught us to keep all the law as a love offering to God, and to remember that he has fulfilled the law so that the law to obey is renamed the royal law of Christ (Jas 1:25; 2:8, 12).

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One Response to The Son Promises the Spirit (John 14:1-31)

  1. Pingback: The Son Promises the Spirit (John 14:1-31) | Downtown Disciples

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