The Ministry of the Spirit- John 16:5-15

In our previous post, we have seen that the Holy Spirit Himself is the first fruits of redemption, He is God’s guarantee that the process of freeing us from sin will be brought to completion. We now turn to Jesus teaching in John 16 to examine just what the Spirit’s ministry is, both to believers and to the world. We begin in verse 5, in which Jesus tells the disciples He is going away, going back to the one who sent Him (the Father). This fills them with grief, the Greek lupe- distress, pain, sorrow. They have already seen the opposition Jesus has faced from the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities, and Jesus has been their shepherd; guiding, leading and protecting them through all the opposition they encountered. Hearing that He would be leaving fills them with distress, for now they believe they will be the targets of opposition and persecution, with Jesus no longer around to tussle with the authorities and shield them in the process. This helps us understand why Jesus next tells them it is better for them that He go away, that His going away is for their good. This is so because when He goes away He will send the Holy Spirit to be with them, which will be better for them, since the Spirit will not be limited by a human body like Jesus, only able to be “with” them and limited to one place at one time. The Spirit would be “in” them and able to be at more than one place at the same time, not limited by a body. Jesus then tells us what the ministry of the Spirit will be, both to the lost world and to believers. He begins in verses 8-11 with the Spirit’s ministry to the lost, to the world. It is a ministry of conviction, to awaken the consciences of those in the world that they may see that they are guilty “in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment”, and that hell awaits them because of their guilt. They are guilty in regard to sin because they do not believe in Him, because they are born sinners who commit sins, and only faith in Jesus can deal with sin and remove their guilt. They are guilty in regard to righteousness because they do not measure up to God’s standard (this is what the term righteous means “to measure up”), and only those who do can go to the Father as Jesus would do. In regard to judgment because all who do not believe in Him are still and their sins, they do not measure up to God’s standard (which can be done only when Jesus righteousness is credited to us by faith), and all who do not will face God’s eternal judgment. In verse 12, then, Jesus moves on to tell us something of the ministry to believers. He begins by telling them that He has “much more to say” to them , but they cannot handle it yet. They are not able to for they do not have the Spirit yet, whom Jesus will speak to them through, allowing them both to hear and understand what He says to them, which they are not capable of doing without the Spirit in them. Jesus then gives us the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit to believers, to “guide you into all truth” (verse 13). Several things need be noted here about verse 13, the first of which is that the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth”. This is another genitive, and is most likely used as both subjective and objective, the Spirit both “is” the truth and “gives” the truth. The second is that the Spirit will “guide” them into the truth. The Greek word guide here is hodegeo- to lead the way, the idea here being not just that the Spirit will enable us to understand the truth but also to live it out in our lives. The third is that the Spirit is in us to guide us into “all the truth” The Holy Spirit is given to every believer for the specific purpose of enabling them to understand, apply and live by all the truths of the Scriptures (what is meant by “the truth” here). The believer therefore has no excuse for not seeking to learn and apply the truths of Scripture to his or her life. The Holy Spirit is in each of us to explain to us and lead us to understand all the truth of Scripture, and lack of education or “book smarts” are no excuse. Each of us is able to understand the Scripture and apply it to our lives. Jesus here tells us it is the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit (the third person of the trinity) to enable us to understand and apply the truth of Scripture to our lives, and lack of training, education or basic intelligence is no excuse for not engaging in the study of Scripture. The Spirit will guide us into all the truth of Scripture, but we must first pick up and read the Scripture for Him to do so. If we do not, He will not be able to fulfill His ministry to us and “guide us into all the truth”.

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