By Sam E. Stone
The Holy Spirit’s role was noted on several occasions during Jesus’ earthly ministry. When John the Baptist immersed Jesus in the Jordan River, the Spirit descended in the form of a dove (John 1:32). When Jesus was teaching Nicodemus, he emphasized the need for all sinners to be born of water and the Spirit (3:5). Worship of God is to be “in Spirit and in truth” (4:24). On the night of his betrayal, Jesus taught his followers of the Spirit’s help available in the days ahead.
Coming of the Spirit
Difficult times lay ahead for the disciples. The Lord had not told them a lot about all that was to come that week. He understood their despair at the news that he would be leaving them soon. “It is for your good that I am going away,” he explained. Only then could the Advocate come to help them. J. W. McGarvey explained, “His work had to do with the conviction of human hearts through the preaching of a complete gospel, and the ascension or return of Christ to Heaven, and his enthronement in glory there, are essential parts of the completed gospel.”
Work of the Spirit
After those who believe are baptized in him (Acts 2), the Spirit of truth will do his work continually and consistently. In addition to inspiring the disciples so that their message would contain exactly what God wanted to be taught, the Holy Spirit would then work in the hearts of their hearers. Through the truth of the apostolic message, unbelievers would be convinced of their need to change.
The Spirit’s activity was intended to be both a continuation and an expansion of the ministry and teaching of Jesus. Jesus had been convicting the world of sin (John 7:7; 15:22). Now the Spirit of truth will do so. Conviction occurs in three particulars: sin, righteousness, and judgment. William Hendriksen pointed out, “The result of this operation of the Spirit will sometimes be conversion; in other cases, hardening and everlasting punishment.”
Sinners must be brought to faith in Christ and repentance for their sins. Only as believers in Jesus are brought to obey his commands is the promise of forgiveness and the Spirit’s presence in their lives assured (Acts 2:38). All have sinned (Romans 3:23), so therefore all need to admit their guilt and put their trust in Jesus to remove it. Their lives then should be marked by righteousness. This can only be possible through the sacrifice of Jesus for sins. One day every person who has ever lived will stand before God to await his judgment.
Testimony of the Spirit
The Lord understood the tremendous difficulty the apostles had as they tried to absorb all his words. In time, however, and with the Holy Spirit’s help, they would be able to do so. Jesus assured them, “The Spirit of truth . . . will guide you into all the truth.” Every sermon, every letter, every statement they made about Jesus was going to be completely accurate.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had foretold the apostles’ role in the church (Matthew 16:18). Even their enemies had to admit the breadth and depth of their message (Acts 4:13). The Spirit was to come after Jesus ascended (v. 7). He would declare to them what is yet to come. Through it all, the apostles would glorify Jesus. The Lord promised these things to them (John 13:12-17; 15:15, 16; Luke 22:14-16, 28-30).
Albert Barnes wrote, “This is always the work of the Spirit. All serious impressions produced by him lead to the Lord Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:3). . . . If we have been truly convicted of sin and renewed by the Holy Ghost, the tendency of all his influences has been to lead us to the Saviour; to show our need of him; to reveal to us the loveliness of his character, and the fitness of his works to our wants; and to incline us to cast our eternal interests on his almighty arm, and commit all to his hands.”
The Spirit of truth inspired the words written in the New Testament. We take every word of Scripture as true. We are responsible to pass on Christ’s message for those in every generation to follow. We extend ourselves to take it to every tribe, kindred, and nation. Here the truth of God’s love is recorded. By our lives and teaching it can be revealed.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.