In this Sunday’s reading from John’s gospel, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. Jesus begins by saying to his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
This is the first thing to note. Love for God and keeping his commandments go together, … and both are associated with the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is important! It’s not a case of love me OR obey me. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
Jesus is teaching his disciples in the upper room, the night before he died. He tells the disciples that he must leave them. But Jesus also tells them, “I will not leave you as orphans; …”
There are at least three things this passage tells us about the Holy Spirit:
So, firstly, the Holy Spirit is a person: the third person of the Trinity
The Spirit is spoken of as “He,” not as “it.”
In verse 17, Jesus says, “The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him”.
This is important! If you listen to people speaking about the Holy Spirit, you will often hear the Holy Spirit referenced in terms of “it”. You may even catch yourself doing this. If you do, I hope you will bite your tongue. As Christians, we have to understand that the Spirit of God, … the third person of the Trinity, … is personal.
The Nicene Creed emphasises this for us: who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.
Secondly, the Spirit is our Helper or Comforter
Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever.”
The Greek word translated as “Counsellor” or “Helper” is parakletos. In its technical form, paraclete has a legal dimension; it refers to one who would be an advocate, … someone who would speak on our behalf. But in its wider context, the word “paraclete” speaks of comfort, of protection, of counsel, and of guidance. He is the one who bring out the fruit of the Spirit.
This is reflected in some of the hymns we sing:
Spirit of our God, descending,
fill our hearts with heavenly joy
Spirit of truth and love, life-giving, holy Dove,
speed forth thy flight; …
The Holy Spirit is our helper. We have the Holy Spirit around us, and within us, at all times. But how often do we pray to be filled with the Spirit, … or ask to be aware of his presence?
Thirdly, this Helper or Counsellor is the Spirit of truth
In verse 17, Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth. The Spirit is in Himself the essence of truth. He is also the Spirit who imparts truth.
As well as to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, the Holy Spirit has been sent to us to teach us the truth about God. Jesus spells this out in verse 26 …
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
The Holy Spirit will open our minds and deepen our understanding of Jesus; who Jesus is and all that what He has done for us. But the Holy Spirit won’t do this by magic. We have to be willing to read, and think, and apply ourselves.
As I’ve said before, this period of lockdown is a wonderful opportunity for us to grow in our faith.
We have hardly scratched the surface: there is much, much more to be known about the Holy Spirit. But here we have 3 things to focus on:
1) The Holy Spirit is a person: the third person of the Trinity
2) The Spirit is our Helper or Comforter
3) This Helper or Counsellor is the Spirit of truth
Finally, it is the Holy Spirit working in and through us that enables us to love the Lord Jesus, … and to obey his commandments.
So, let us invite the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts. Let us pray.
Holy Spirit, rushing, burning,
wind and flame of Pentecost,
fire our hearts afresh with yearning
to regain what we have lost.
May your love unite our action,
nevermore to speak alone:
God, in us abolish faction,
God, through us your love make known.
Revd Stephen Robertson
17th May 2020