This week, we continue to examine Jesus’ farewell address he gave to his disciples on the night he was arrested. Last week, we saw Jesus warn his disciples that the world would hate them as it had hated him. In our text for this morning, Jesus returns to a familiar topic in this discourse. That is—the coming of the Holy Spirit. Why would Jesus come back to this topic at this point in the discourse? Think about what he has just said to them. He’s going to send these men on a mission to preach the gospel to people who will hate them.
On its face, that’s a mission with no hope for success. Unless, God somehow overcomes the world’s hatred and causes them to see their need of the gospel. It makes perfect sense for Jesus to speak of the Holy Spirit here because only the Spirit can miraculously change the hearts of people from hating Jesus to loving Jesus and submitting their lives to him. The main section of Jesus’ teaching on the Spirit begins with verse eight, but he introduces it in verses four through seven. Jesus begins in verse four with, “…I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”
Jesus hasn’t said a word to his disciples about the coming of the Spirit before this night, because HE was on earth and the Spirit wasn’t necessary until after he ascended to his Father. His point is NOT that two members of the godhead couldn’t be on earth at the same time. His point is that the ministry of the Spirit in God’s people could only occur after Jesus had gone to the cross. Because Jesus was still with the disciples (he had not been crucified, risen and ascended) what theologians call “the age of the Spirit” had not yet begun.
What that means is–only after Jesus had done his redemptive work on the cross was there any need or purpose for the ministry of the Spirit of God. Until the Redeemer had done his saving work on the cross, there was no need for the Spirit because a big part of his role is to APPLY the redemptive work of Christ to the lives of people and bring them into the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit cannot APPLY the work of redemption to believers until Jesus had DONE the work of redemption by dying on the cross for them.
Jesus continues with a difficult saying, “5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’” This is a challenging verse to understand because the disciples had asked Jesus where he was going, so what can he means by “…none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?” In 13:36, “36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
What then can Jesus mean when he says here in verse five, “none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” The answer to the seeming contradiction probably lies with the way the disciples were asking the question. When the disciples earlier asked the question, their concern was that he was leaving them, not where he was going. Their root question was really, “WHY are you leaving us?”
In this sense, they weren’t asking him for his travel itinerary. Verse six confirms this when he says, “6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” Jesus’ point seems to be, “your concern is not with what happens to me. You’re more concerned about your own sorrow over losing me.” That is not self-pity or cynicism on Jesus’ part. Sadly, the truth of their self-centeredness was validated later when they all deserted him.
Jesus addresses their sorrow with a hopeful statement in verse seven, “7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” It will be to YOUR advantage for me to go away and the Spirit come to you. We know from the Old Testament promises that this is because when the Spirit comes, Jesus’ promised New Covenant—a new and much better way of relating to God, will be inaugurated. God will use this New Covenant to create a new race of people—people who are not only in Adam or, in their case—people of Abraham. No, this will be a new people—rooted in his saving work on the cross and created by the Holy Spirit from every nation and united with Christ.
The Spirit will create a people very different than those under the Old Covenant. This will be a people who, not only know God’s forgiveness, but will also receive from the Spirit a new, softened, spiritually sensitized heart that cause them to WANT to serve and obey God. The rest of our text this morning answers this question—In what ways will the ministry of the Holy Spirit be so advantageous to followers of Christ?
The broad answer to the question from the text is—The Holy Spirit will, through Christ’s church, manifest and glorify Jesus Christ by continuing through them his ministry on earth. To manifest Jesus, the Spirit makes him clearly seen in our lives, our marriages, our churches, our relationships, attitudes, desires and decisions. When unbelievers get to know genuine believers well, they will see Jesus’ life manifest in our lives. The Holy Spirit alone can manifest Christ through his church. The Holy Spirit alone produces the life of Christ in us so that others can see him in us.
Closely related to this, the Spirit will also uniquely glorify Jesus. That means that he will powerfully reveal to the church and through the church how beautiful and magnificent Jesus is—how glorious he is as the Son of God. Only the Spirit, through the witness of the church, can open the eyes of spiritually dead people to see the glory, wonder, beauty and supremacy of Christ. Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the spiritually blind and dead people in this world will never see Jesus as anyone more than some sort of iconic religious figure.
Verses eight through 15 more specifically answer the question—How does the Holy Spirit manifest and glorify Jesus Christ to the world? Most of the New Testament’s teaching on the Holy Spirit relates his ministry to those in the church—what he does and how he works in the lives of believers. This teaching is different because much of it is about how the Spirit of God works in the lives of those in the world who by nature, hate Jesus. Jesus gives three ways in which the Spirit of God manifests and glorifies Jesus to the world and another way in which he manifests and glorifies Jesus in the church.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus says in verse eight, “8 And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” The key word here is the verb “convict.” What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to “convict” someone? The word occurs 18 times in the New Testament and the meaning is very consistent. In almost every case, the word means to “show someone his/her sin, usually as a summons to repentance.” It is sometimes also translated by the word “exposed.” Jesus says in John 3:20, “20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.” That’s the same word as “convict” in chapter 16 in the original.
The Holy Spirit exposes to a person their sin in the sense that– they NOW see them, NOT as mistakes or bad decisions or even as something that’s not wrong at all. The Holy Spirit will cause them, for the first time to see their sin as something evil and shameful before God and he will bring them genuine heartache over it. For instance, only the Spirit can take a person (who has prolifically spoken profanities for 30 years without even a twinge of guilt) and cause him/her to feel ashamed for using words they were not even conscious of saying only a couple of days earlier. That kind of radical change does NOT come as a result of cultural conditioning. It’s not about bowing to a new form of peer pressure. It’s the Holy Spirit’s miraculous work in them because they don’t just feel uncomfortable about using profanity, they feel a new sense of shame before God. The Holy Spirit causes people to blush over things they’ve never blushed about.
Only the Holy Spirit can take a sexually immoral person and cause him to think that an activity that, for the last decade he has practiced with little if any guilt, is in fact, evil and bring massive amounts of guilt and shame to his soul. This new sexual ethic is NOT brought on by a self-improvement program. It’s not the result of education or moral enlightenment. It’s God Almighty taking a dark, hardened and perverse heart that is blind to his own sin and shining a supernatural light on a behavior he never before had any reservation about.
Conviction shouldn’t be thought of primarily in legal terms–as if God the Spirit puts us on trial and declares us guilty. This is more than that. As politically incorrect as it is today, the Holy Spirit brings a healthy sense of holy shame on people and that causes them to think completely differently about their sinful attitude, desire, or action.
We see this same dynamic in the ministry of Jesus in our text from last week. In John 15:22, Jesus says about the world, “22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, [their sin would not have been exposed] but now they have no excuse for their sin.” The lost world hated Jesus, but it wasn’t until HE came and spoke the word of God to them that the Spirit through him exposed that hatred that had been in their hearts all along. So, the Spirit will be doing through the church what the Spirit did in the ministry of Jesus.
In verse nine, Jesus explains what specifically the Spirit’s conviction of sin will primarily be exposing in the unbeliever. He says, “…concerning sin, because they do not believe in me.” The first way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Jesus is by: convicting the world of its sin and unbelief. Jesus shows that the root sin any person must be convicted of to be saved is… unbelief. People don’t go to hell for sexual sin or murder or lying. People go to hell for unbelief—because they refused to believe in Jesus and receive forgiveness and repentance from their sins. Jesus says in John 3:18, “18 Whoever believes in him 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.”
It’s the Spirit of God alone who can cause a sinner to recognize and see the peril of their unbelief mainly by causing him/her to realize he/she can never be good enough for God. The Spirit does not cause them to simply acknowledge mentally that they are not good enough for heaven. This is the sense of horror and dread in the life of sinners when they realize that, as an unbeliever, the wrath of God is awaiting them! It’s only the Spirit of God who can dramatically convince people that they’re lost in unbelief and must repent and trust in Christ if they’re to be saved.
Apart from the Spirit’s work of conviction, the sinner will be largely indifferent to their sin and deceived about their souls. They may go to church, but church attendance alone doesn’t impact how we view our sin. Only the Spirit of God can cause a spiritually dead and indifferent sinner to have a sense of holy urgency about the state of his/her soul. Only the Spirit of God can convince a person that he/she is absolutely and without doubt headed for hell apart from faith in Christ.
We can tell people that, but unless the Spirit of God makes that truth real to them in their hearts, it will have no redemptive impact on them. Unless the Spirit of God—the Spirit of TRUTH invades the sinners’ heart to convince and give him/her a sense of fear and urgency about their unbelief, they will not be saved.
A second way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Christ is in verse 10. He convicts the world “10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;” A second way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Christ is by: convicting the world of its sham righteousness. The world in their unbelief assumes that God will accept them in spite of their sin. Only the ministry of the Spirit can convince them that the alleged righteousness they’ve been trusting in is sinking sand, a false hope—a counterfeit, a lie.
Most of those in the world that Jesus confronted were the hypocritical Jewish religious leaders. These leaders were confident God approved of them based on their religious works and outward piety. Jesus tells them in Matthew 23, “27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
He pronounces seven of these woes or curses on the Pharisees, all of which were intended to expose their unrighteousness—that their righteousness was only external and in the words of Isaiah–like filthy rags before God. What they thought was pleasing to God was in fact, repulsive to him. The Spirit of God continues Jesus’ ministry of exposing and convicting the world of its sham righteousness.
Only the Spirit of God can convince someone to repent, not only of their sin, but also of their sham righteousness and cause them to renounce it as shameful in God’s sight. Only the Spirit of God can convince an outwardly religious person that what they thought was earning them salvation is in truth, condemning them. Only the Spirit of God can convince someone who thinks he/she’s a believer that they’re lost and that their reliance on their own good works will in truth, land them in hell, not heaven.
We see this work of the Spirit powerfully in Paul’s life. In Philippians chapter three, he describes how the Spirit exposed his phony righteousness. Speaking of his own righteousness he says in verse six he was “…as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Paul says that “what I used to think of as my righteousness I now see was rubbish in God’s sight—dung.”
It was the Holy Spirit who caused that radical shift in his thinking and revealed his desperate need to renounce his own righteousness and place his trust in the righteousness that comes from God—the righteousness of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Spirit of God alone convicts the world of its phony righteousness. One way the Spirit does that is by manifesting genuine holiness/righteousness in the holy lives of believers. When he was on earth, Jesus’ holy life exposed the unrighteousness of the world and now the holiness worked into the lives of believers by the Spirit does that as well.
Jesus says the reason the Spirit of God will convict the world of their sham righteousness is “because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” The Spirit of God will do this—Jesus says—because I will not be here to do it. I will be out of your sight with the Father. In verse 11, he gives a third way the Holy Spirit will manifest and glorify Christ. That is–he will convict the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
The Spirit will manifest and glorify Christ by: convicting the world of its false judgments. When we think of judgment, we tend to think of God’s judgment of sin, but Jesus is referring to the world’s twisted moral judgment. This is the world’s upside-down, ethically twisted, selfishly permissive and culturally debased judgments, values and priorities—their moral worldview.
Jesus implies that the world makes its judgments based on the lies fed to them by their prince—Satan. Lies like—“you won’t be held responsible for your behavior,” “short term pleasure is better than eternal bliss,” “riches and material wealth will make you happy,” “commitment is costly and should be avoided,” “if something is hard, it must be wrong,” “life should be easy” “the bible is just another religious book,” “personal sacrifice is a waste,” “the church is a fraud—stay away” and finally,” “God promises far more than he can deliver.”
Those are the kinds of lies that provide the foundation for the perverse judgments this world makes. Believing those lies—that are becoming increasingly widespread and, in your face,—predisposes sinners to making rotten judgments.
The Holy Spirit alone can cause someone to believe that a judgment or world view or value system they have held for decades is actually a lie from the devil. Jesus says the reason the Spirit of God will convict the world of their lie-laden judgments is: “because the ruler of this world is judged.” That means that the Holy Spirit will be able to convict the world of its morally perverse judgements is because the one who conceived those lies and empowers them will be judged and defeated at the cross. Only the Holy Spirit can so radically change a person’s belief system that, what they once thought was sound judgment, logical, thoughtful, enlightened, broad-minded, even loving—is in fact based completely on lies told them by a vanquished foe who was defeated by Jesus at the cross.
Only the Spirit can snap someone’s head around that dramatically. You cannot educate this into a person—though the Spirit can use the word of God to reveal the lies underlying these false judgments. We must see that, apart from the ministry of the Spirit, it doesn’t matter how eloquent or compelling or logical or winsome or impassioned our arguments or evangelistic appeals are, they will either bounce off the person or simply irritate them. This why prayer is the most important part of missions and evangelism—because unless God shows up in power to do his miraculous work, nothing is happening.
Unlike the first three truths, a fourth and final way the Spirit manifests and glorifies Jesus is directed toward believers. His work on behalf of believers is: revealing to Christ’s followers the implications of the Person and work of Jesus. He introduces the section in verse 12 saying, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” The apostles are not ready to hear anything more because they don’t yet know that Jesus’ main mission is to die for sin and rise from the dead, defeating death, hell and the grave. He has only been able to assure them in a general sense that it’s better for him to go away and the Spirit to come because the Spirit will enable God-haters to become God-lovers.
Verse 13 continues, “13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth….” Jesus says the Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth who will guide believers in all the truth. We already know from chapter 14 that Jesus is the truth. That means the Spirit’s truth-guiding ministry is to reveal the implications of what Jesus’ life, death and resurrection accomplished. The Spirit’s main way of doing this is through his inspiration of the Word of God. It’s the New Testament that wholly and absolutely points to Jesus and reveals who he is and what he has done for us in the cross. The Old Testament looks forward to Jesus, predicts him through the Spirit-inspired prophets and explains what his salvation will bring to God’s people.
Jesus says the reason the Spirit of truth will guide his disciples into all truth is “for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” As we’ve seen several times in this discourse, Jesus didn’t speak or act on his own authority and neither will the Spirit. This utter dependence upon God ensures—as it did with Jesus–that the Spirit will be speaking on behalf of the entire Godhead. There is no difference between the truth of Jesus and the truth of the Father and the Spirit of truth.
They’re all the same. When Jesus says the Spirit will “declare to you the things that are to come” he’s not speaking of futuristic prophecy. He’s referring to his death and resurrection. He’s saying, “The Holy Spirit will unpack for you disciples the implications of what is to come in my passion—what all this means to you and my church.”
Verse 14 reveals the main truth of this section. “14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Spirit will glorify Jesus as he unfolds for his people what Jesus did on the cross for them. Jesus promises the Spirit will do this to “glorify” him. That is his purpose—to shine the light—to reveal to his people the beauty and supremacy and glory of Jesus. Jesus wants to clarify however that this glorifying ministry of the Spirit doesn’t in any way diminish the Father. That is—because the Spirit is expressly sent to glorify the Son, that doesn’t take away from the Father because—verse 15, “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to manifest and glorify Jesus Christ and what he has received from his Father in the church.
As we close, let’s bring out two crucial implications of this vital truth. First, as we say repeatedly, we must keep the main thing the main thing in Christ’s church. If the ministry of the Holy Spirit indwells the church for the purpose of manifesting and glorifying Christ, then that should be the passion and heartbeat of believers and of Christ’s church because the Spirit who lives in us and guides us has as his agenda–the glory of Jesus. If we’re NOT driven by a passion to see Jesus made much of, we are not being driven by the Holy Spirit.
If the Spirit of God is active in our lives and in our church, then what we think, say and do will be an expression of loving Christ, treasuring Christ, savoring Christ, following Christ, sharing Christ, fellowshipping around Christ, living for Christ, dying for Christ, seeking after Christ, worshipping Christ and serving Christ. Those are Christ-centered manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Churches can do many outwardly impressive things without the Holy Spirit. Several years ago, one of the leaders of the house church movement in China was invited to America and he visited several well-respected American churches. Before he left someone asked him his most powerful impression of the North American church. His response was, “It’s amazing how many things you can do here without the Holy Spirit.” Human ingenuity and entrepreneurialism and advanced technology can be very impressive—so impressive that we THINK we are witnessing the ministry of the Spirit, when we’re really just seeing the fallen glory of humanity.
This much we DO know: the only believers, churches and ministries the Holy Spirit will empower are those with the ongoing, self-conscious mission of bringing glory to Jesus Christ—making much of him. So, if we want to have a Holy Spirit-empowered life or ministry or family or church, we must orbit very tightly around Jesus. To the degree that we stray from that focus, we will not be empowered by the Spirit which means we will fail dismally.
Another implication for us is—we should never lose hope for our lost loved ones because the Holy Spirit can convict anybody and save them. Its tempting to give up when we’re praying for lost loved ones as we see them spiraling off in directions that seem to be further and further away from God. It can be so disheartening. And it SHOULD be disheartening IF we’re relying on THEM to change their minds or become positively influenced for Christ by someone. If THAT is our hope, then we have every right to be disheartened.
But Jesus is clear here. Every person who is converted is a miracle of the Holy Spirit’s power and there is NO ONE, NO ONE, NO ONE, the Holy Spirit cannot convict of his/her sin. He is the omnipotent God and his purposes cannot be thwarted! [Job 42:2] There is no one who is too tough a nut to crack—no one whose heart is too hard—who is so in love with their sin—who has wandered so far from God that the Spirit cannot transform them. We should never lose hope for any of the lost people we love, and we are praying for. Continue to boldly plead with God for a saving miracle by the Spirit in their lives!
Finally, as you sit here this morning listening to the work of the Spirit, have YOU ever been awakened to feel that sense of deep shame about your sin? Have you ever been intensely awakened to the fact that—because of the horror of your sin before a holy God, you deserve hell? That’s the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit. If you haven’t had that kind of awakening in your soul, you have reason to question your salvation.
If you DO experience this at some point, now or in the future, it’s because the Spirit of God is at work in your heart. He’s calling you to give up on your own efforts to make it to heaven but instead, place your trust in Christ—in what he did to purchase your forgiveness and impart his righteousness to you through the cross.
Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, confess your sin, feel the mercy of his shame for your sin and place your trust in Christ today. May God give us the grace as individuals and as a church to manifest and glorify Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit for his glory and our joy.
 Carson, D.A. Pillar N.T. Commentary, Gospel of John…
 Carson, D.A., Pillar, pp. 532-542.