This lesson continues examining Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Spirit during what is commonly understood as the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). While the entirety of these chapters should be carefully studied with much prayer and meditation, our concern will be with the specifics of the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the incredible relationship that He brings to the believer in Christ.
First, we must consider the context of the passage at hand. With chapter 15 comes Jesus’ teaching on what it is to “abide” in Him. This is something that will be covered in detail later, but it would be good for the sake of context to read v.1-11.
Starting in John 15:12, the commandment as expressed in 13:34-35 is reiterated, beginning an inclusiothat persists unto John 15:17. “An inclusio is a literary device that marks off a section of material by putting ‘book ends’ at the beginning and end. This literary device alerts the reader to look at everything between the two similar, or identical in this case, statements as a single unit of thought.”
Thus, within the bookends of loving “one another” we find the subjects of “greater love” being defined as giving one’s life for his friends (15:13), that friendship with Christ is contingent upon keeping His commands (15:14) and that His disciples are considered His friends, seeing that Jesus has made all things known to them as His Father has revealed them to Him (15:15). We also read that the eleven were chosen by Christ for the purpose of “bearing fruit” and that their fruit would “remain” (menō same word for “abide”), for with such “remaining/abiding” one’s prayers are answered, seeing that they are in fellowship with the Father (15:16).
Jesus then communicates that they should expect persecution and hatred because of their affiliation with Him (John 15:18-27). Accusations and violence against the believer is never a result of the believer him or herself, but is always because of Christ (15:21). He alone is the reason for reproach because what He speaks is always true (See also John 7:7). Jesus also explains His complete identification with the Father, noting that those who hate Him hate the Father as well (John 15:23-25).
Because of the works that Jesus performed in front of their eyes (John 15:24a), their accountability had been jettisoned to a maximum level, seeing that the Spirit was testifying through Jesus’ works that the kingdom of God had come upon Israel (Matt 12:28).These works are also understood biblically as being the evidence of God abiding in Christ (John 14:10b). It is with the context of persecution, hatred, and heightened accountability that we step into Jesus’ continued comments about the Holy Spirit.
John 15:26-27. Once again, the word “Helper” is used by Jesus, being the same word as mentioned before in John 14:16 and 26. The Parakletos, the One who has been “called to one’s side,” is perfectly God as seen in the Person of the Holy Spirit. While much of the importance of this word has already been conveyed, we must still recognize the false, modern-day stigmas that usually surround the Person of the Spirit of God.
The Spirit is usually understood as either being less than the Father and the Son, an influence that causes people to act irrationally, convulsing and rolling around on the floor, or altogether forgotten for the fear that He may be real and may actually enact some change in the life of the believer. Erdman sets the record straight, writing, “He is God as Creator. (Gen. 1:2; Psa. 104:30; Job 26:13; Luke 1:35.) He is one with God as Jehovah (Lord) in providential leading and care, and susceptible of grief on account of the unholiness of His chosen people. We cannot grieve an ‘influence,’ but only a person, and a person, too, who loves us. (Psa. 78:40; Eph. 4:30.) He is one with God as Adonai (Lord), whose glory Isaiah beheld and John rehearses, who commissioned the prophet and sent forth the apostle. (Isa. 6:1–10; John 12:37–41; Acts 13:2; 20:15–18.) In these Scriptures one and the same act is that of Jehovah and of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.”The Holy Spirit is to be embraced as being one in essence with the Father and the Son, equal and eternal, yet commissioned with a particular responsibility that unearths itself in Jesus’ teaching in John 15:26.
Not only is the Spirit identified again as the “Helper,” but is also spoken of again as “the Spirit of truth” as seen previously in John 14:17a. This is, of course, consistent with the character and essence of the Spirit because He is perfectly God. In addition, Jesus notes that He will send the Spirit to His disciples “from the Father” (John 15:26b) which pairs perfectly with His previous statements of asking of the Father to send the Spirit (John 14:16) and that the Spirit is sent by the Father in the name of Jesus in John 14:26. Again, the Holy Spirit is the specially requested and divinely sent blessing of Jesus Christ to His followers for the purpose of leading them into all truth, aiding, comforting, and teaching them all things.
Jesus also mentions that “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26c). The word “proceeds” means “to move out of an enclosed or well-defined two or three-dimensional area—‘to go out of, to depart out of, to leave from within.’”Initially this understanding may seem like a redundancy of all that we have examined thus far from Jesus concerning the Spirit, but that is precisely the point. Our minds must be convinced about the truths of the Spirit’s divinity, His equality with the Father and the Son, and His “oneness” as part of the Trinity. He is not something less than the Father and Son. He is perfectly God!
Jesus’ words in John 14:26b state that the Spirit “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” This statement is further enhanced in 15:26c because the Spirit will also “testify about Me.” This comment must be kept within the preceding context of persecution. The Spirit of God always points to Jesus. He never points to Himself. In the middle of slander and oppression comes the opportunity to speak on behalf of Jesus’ Name, and the Spirit is divinely commissioned to bear witness to who Jesus is and what He has done for the world in paying for their sins with His own blood. This is seen in the connection between 15:26 and 27 with Jesus stating that the disciples would also testify because they had been with Him from the beginning. We must not think that there are two separate testimonies going on; only two separate entities (Spirit and the disciples) that are testifying to the same things, with the Spirit enhancing and directing the testimony as dispensed by the disciples.
To think that what needs to be said of Christ can be said with power and confidence because the Church Age believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit should encourage all of us to look for opportunities to speak lovingly and boldly for His Name. He has given us of Himself to “bring to your remembrance” (John 14:26b) what you and I should say. He will aid us divinely in testifying about Christ our Lord!
Gary Derickson and Earl Radmacher, The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus(Salem, OR: Charis Press, 2001), p. 198, footnote 2.
The word for “sin” in John 15:24 is harmatianand is better understood as “guilt.” Jesus’ signs were from the Holy Spirit, bringing a greater accountability upon the Jews. However, this verse does not mean that if Jesus had never worked wonders that the Jews would not have sin. His miracles increased their accountability.
W. J. Erdman, The Fundamentals: A Testimony of the Truth,vol. 2, ed. R.A. Torrey and A.C. Dixon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 338.
Louw and Nida, p. 186.