John 15:26-16:12: January 5—Ministry of the Spirit
Dec 29, 2013

Mark Rathel is a professor of theology at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville.
The Spirit is the forgotten member of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps the KJV terminology of Holy Ghost contributed to the comfortableness many Christians feel regarding the person of the Holy Spirit. Briefly, the biblical teachings about the Spirit set forth three truths. First, the primary role of the Spirit is the exaltation of the Son. Second, The appellative “Holy” means that the Spirit’s primary role in the life of a believer is to produce holiness. Holiness involves both separation from worldliness and separation to the mission of God. Third, the biblical witness contrasted the power of the Spirit of God with the weakness of human beings. 

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus taught His disciples about some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit did Jesus teach?

First, the Spirit empowers testimony in the context of hostility (John 15:26-16:4). Some Christians seemed shocked at society’s dislike, yea hatred, of Christians. Jesus instructed His disciples to expect the world’s rejection. God loves the world – the system of human life opposed to God (John 3:16). In contrast, the world system hates God. Jesus, then, claimed that the world system opposed to God acts naturally in hatred for Christians. A preferred translation of the grammar of John 15:18 is “Since the world hates you.” Jesus identified four reasons for the world’s hatred of Christians. First, the world system hates Jesus because Jesus reveals the sin of the world system (16:18, 22). Second, the call of God separates believers from the world system (v 16). Third, the world system does not know God (v. 21).

Jesus set forth two consequences for believers in light of the hatred of the world. First, the world will attempt to cause believers to stumble (16:1). The word translated “stumble” is scandalized—the term describes an enemy setting a hidden trap resulting in a believer disgracing the faith by his or her actions. Peter’s denial of Christ typifies such a scandal. Second, the world system persecutes followers of Christ religiously (16:2). The Christian claim of salvation through the name of Christ alone causes the persecution. 

In the context of religious hostility, the Spirit of truth testifies to unbelievers adhering to falsehood. As well, the Spirit empowers the witness of believers.

Second, the Spirit comforts discouraged believers (Jhn. 16:5-7). The disciples experienced deep sorrow at Jesus’ alarming words of His departure. The sorrow arose because of Jesus told them of the horrible nature of His departure—death. Moreover, personal grief filled their hearts because of their love for Jesus. In response to their grief, Jesus claimed that His departure would bring about great benefit, namely the sending of the Spirit. The removal of the physical presence of Jesus provided another spiritual resource meaning followers of Christ are not spiritual orphans (Jhn. 14:18).

Third, the Spirit convicts the world system (Jhn. 16:8-11). The ministry of the Holy Spirit involves empowerment, comfort, and prosecution. Like a prosecuting attorney, the Holy Spirit exposes the guilt of the adherents of the world system. First, the Spirit’s indictment is participants in the world system are sinners. C. S. Lewis commented, “The four hardest words to say are ‘I am a sinner.’” Sin involves choosing another god; in this case, participants in the world system choose self and rejected Jesus. Second, the Holy Spirit convicts of the standard. Righteousness means “standard” or “norm.” According to the Bible, humans fail to meet the standard because our righteousness is filthy rags. Jesus ascension to the Father means that Jesus fulfills and functions as the standard. Third, the Spirit renders the verdict—guilty. Behind the world system, stands a defeated, condemned enemy—Satan. 

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