“He Dwells With You”
April 23, 2017
God the Holy Spirit dwells in us to glorify Jesus.
I. The Promises
a. Withness (John 14;15-20)
b. Wordness (John 16:12-15)
c. Witness (Acts 1:1-11)
II. The First Fulfillment (Acts 2:1-41)
The first time I heard someone talk about God’s Big Story was at the Intervarsity Missions Conference, Urbana, in 1976. The Bible exposition was by John Stott, and his text, he said, was the whole Bible. “I hope you’ll forgive me for not reading it.” He cast a vision for God’s Big Story as a missionary story, what I’ve been calling God’s rescue mission for his lost love. Let me play a bit of what I heard over 40 years ago. “We considered on the first morning from the Old Testament that the living God is a missionary God, and yesterday from the Gospels that the Lord Christ is a missionary Christ. Because we are Trinitarian Christians we come today to the third section of Scripture, the book of Acts and from it we learn that the Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit.”
In the same way, we come today to the book of Acts and from it we learn that the Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit, or more broadly, that the Holy Spirit dwells with us to glorify Jesus and to continue his rescue mission world-wide. We’re going to talk next week about how the Spirit took the Gospel to the nations, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham. But today we’ll focus on the promise of the Holy Spirit and His coming, which is obviously a key moment in God’s Big Story. Before I even listened to Stott, I chose the same outline he used at Urbana. The promise of the Holy Spirit and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Before we jump in, I want to think about the idea of a missionary. What makes an effective missionary? I think three things are obvious. First, a missionary goes to live among the people he’s trying to reach. Second, a missionary brings God’s Word to those people, brings God’s Big Story into their lives. Third, a missionary is a witness. He calls people to respond to the good news about Jesus. Take Adoniram Judson, America’s first overseas missionary. He spent four decades in the 1800’s in Burma. Dwelling with people? Yeah. He put up a zayat, a Bhuddist meeting and hospitality structure so the Burmsese would feel comfortable coming to talk. The Word? Yeah. He translated the whole Bible into Burmese and distributed it. And witness? Yeah. Within a month of opening his zayat and beginning to witness there, Judson saw his first convert, and these continued and multiplied through the decades of his ministry.
So when John Stott says the Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit, I hear him saying these three things about the Spirit. That he is sent from God and by Jesus to live with us. I call that ‘withness.’ And he’s sent to bring us the Word, which included both inspiring it and instilling it into lives. And he came as a witness, that through his power, and really his alone, people might hear and believe.
The first distinctive of the promised Holy Spirit is ‘withness.’ John 14:15-20“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
The promise of the Spirit is central to Jesus’s upper room discourse, John 14-17. “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper.” The Greek word is ‘parakletos,’ which has overtones of legal assistant, but also encourager and counselor. The Greek literally means ‘called alongside to help.’ It was used especially but not exclusively of helping someone with legal issues. I think the ESV’s “helper” is the best of a number of options, especially when you recognize that the word ‘another’ points to Jesus. He was the first helper, the first sent from the Father, but his ministry is about to be fulfilled, so at his request the Father will send another helper to continue his work. Who is this other helper? The Spirit of truth. The word ‘Spirit’ is not ambiguous in the Gospel of John. He is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. And he is spoken of here unambiguously as a person. The distinction between ‘he’ and ‘it’ in Greek is as clear as it is in English. God the Holy Spirit is not the force or an energy emitted by God. He’s a he. And he is with you forever. This is where we get into the fulfillment of God’s Big Idea. We’ve said it’s ‘you will be my people and I will be your God and I will dwell with you.’ The promise is found throughout Scripture and we shouldn’t be surprised that it is fulfilled through the Savior and by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus elaborates in verse 17. He says the world doesn’t see the Spirit or know him but “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” The word dwell is used here for the first of fourteen times in three chapters. It’s usually translated abide. John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” But here it is the Spirit who abides with you and will be in you. This indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is a miraculous truth. really an amazing truth. Because of redemption, won on the cross, revealed in the resurrection, God himself, the Holy Spirit will now humble himself to dwell in those who, though fully redeemed are not yet fully sanctified. But even more amazing is the way Jesus says it again. Verse 18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”
We have a sad tendency to take verses 16 and 17 and think about them, and then another day take verses 18 to 20 and think about them whereas it’s obvious that Jesus said them back to back and meant us to understand that they point to the same thing. “I’m promising you that the Holy Spirit will dwell within you. I’m promising that I will dwell within you.” Christ is present for us through the Holy Spirit. So when Christ makes promises like “Come to me all ye who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest,” or “Behold I am with you always, even to the close of the age,” he is implying that because the Holy Spirit is God with us and because God is three in one then Jesus is with us, and the Father is with us. “I am in the Father and you in me and I in you.” This is the promise, the withness. God is with us through the Holy Spirit.
But the Holy Spirit does not just bring God to us, He also brings God’s Word to us. John 16:12-15 I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, 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. 14He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
There are five promises of the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. This is the last, and it both repeats and concludes Jesus’ thought on the pervasive theme of this closing message. God the Holy Spirit dwells in us to glorify Jesus by bringing to our hearts and minds Jesus’ words, and the entire Word of God. In verse 12 Jesus tells his disciples directly that the revelation to date has been incomplete. They were not sufficiently mature to understand all he wished to teach. So a key role of the Spirit is to lead them to the full comprehension of all Jesus wanted them to know. In one of the previous sections Jesus said that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Spirit would not present an independent message, differing from what they had already learned from Jesus, but they would be led further into the realization of his person and in the development of the principles he had already laid down.
In this promise lies the foundational authority of the apostolic writings, which transmit the revelation of Christ through his disciples by the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself is the truth. The Spirit of truth leads the disciples into all the implications of the truth, the revelation, intrinsically bound up with Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus is called “the Word,” in John 1:1. All revelation up to this time has pointed toward him, and reaches its climax in him, and anything the Holy Spirit provides after his death and resurrection is simply the filling out, the implication of who Jesus was and what Jesus has done.
The same thought is presented in Hebrews 1”in times past God spoke through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these days he has spoken to us by his Son.” When the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, the author certainly knew of the gift of the Spirit and of the writing of at least some of the New Testament books, but he sees such steps as no more than the unpacking of what was revealed in the Son. The finality of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, leads the church to rightly condemn any claim to further definitive revelation, whether around Mohammed, Joseph Smith and the Mormons or the various people who have claimed to be the second coming of Christ. Jesus alone is the focus of revelation, of God’s Big Story.
A second implication is that those of us who are not Apostles, not authors of the Scriptures, are still those led by the Spirit into understanding of what has been said by Jesus and the apostles, and in the Old Testament. The Spirit guides us to see the truth in the Scriptures and to see Jesus in the Scripture. There is a doctrine called the self-attesting nature of the Scriptures. On one level that’s how you know what books are in the Bible. The Scripture witnesses to itself. But in a very real sense the doctrine is wrongly named. What happens both in the creation of the canon and in the communication of the truth of Scripture to the community and ultimately to the individual is that the Holy Spirit witnesses to the truth of Scripture. He brings the Word to life. And he does so for the individual in the context of the community, so that it is not just individualism, each person being their own interpreter of Scripture, but a community resonating with the Scriptures as they are expounded. For example, when I said last week that the climax of God’s big story is too good but not too good to be true that resonated because as a community and then as individuals we see in Scripture the foundation of the truth of the resurrection.
In addition, verses 14 and 15 tell us that this work of the Spirit glorifies Jesus. His purpose is not to glorify himself, but just as the Son glorifies the Father, so also the Spirit glorifies the Son and the Father. Verse 14: “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Don’t miss this. The heart desire of God the Holy Spirit is to bring honor to the other two persons of the Godhead. In the same way, the heart desire of the Son, as we’ve seen him in the gospels, is to bring glory to the Father. Yet the Father also honors the Son, and by extension the Father and the Son honor the Spirit for his work. Here the Spirit brings glory to the Son by extolling his character and deeds, “what is mine,” Jesus says, to the disciples, and by extension, to us. Verse 15: “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” So as the Spirit reveals the character and deeds of the Son, he’s also revealing the character and deeds of the Father.
So when we look for the Spirit to be at work in our lives or our community or our church, we shouldn’t expect his name to show up all that often. Not that he’s not fully God, nor worthy of praise, but as God-in-us in this age, he is more concerned with bringing glory to the one who sent the Savior and to the one who saves than he is in focusing attention on himself. The Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit. The Holy Spirit no less than the Son is humble and on a rescue mission accomplished by turning the hearts of people to the Savior.
Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. His withness, with us. His wordness, to us, and finally His witness through us. One of the places we find this last promise is Acts chapter 1. I’m just going to add some comments to Luke’s great telling of this story, then come back to the key verse.
Acts 1:1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. We saw all this last week when we studied the truth of the resurrection in Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24. Luke describes this as all that Jesus said and did until the day he was taken up, ascended to the right hand of the Father. But that’s not the end of the story. This second volume details the further work of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
Verse 4: And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” If we learn one thing from Luke it is that life should not be lived in our own power. He shows the failures of the disciples apart from the Spirit, and the glorious transformation into life and witness that the presence of the Spirit makes for this rag-tag group of former fishermen.
Jesus calls this the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and in John 3 he calls it being born of the Spirit or born again. For the disciples and a few others there was some separation between believing in Jesus and being empowered by the Spirit, but for the vast majority faith in Christ and renewal by the Holy Spirit occur at the same moment, as Jesus promised in John 3 and as Paul assumes in Romans 8 and elsewhere. Paul says “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, To be born again is to have “withness” of the Spirit, though he may empower us and fill or overflow in us at many subsequent points.
But the disciples are still asking the wrong questions. Verse 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. Jesus never denies that the kingdom will be restored to Israel. I believe this will happen during the millennium. But he always says that the timing of this is not for us to know.
“But,” verse 8, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” This is the key verse, and we’ll come back to it. But I don’t want to skip the ascension. Verse 9 When he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” These are probably the same two angels who met the women at the tomb. There they said “Why do you seek the living among the dead. Here they say “Why do you stand looking up to heaven.” There they said “He is risen.” Here they say “He’ll return.”
The ascension is important because it sets the stage not only for the second coming of Christ, but for the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell, inform and empower the bride, making the church the Body of Christ on earth. Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, Hebrews 12, 1st Peter 3, but he is present with his people and his church, worldwide and through the centuries, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, who empowers the church for witness.
Verse 8: “But you will receive power.” It’s a promise. “When the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” This power for ministry and the Christian life comes from no other source. “And you will be my witnesses.” The power of the indwelling Holy Sprit enables believers to share the good news. “In Jerusalem and Judea and in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” It’s a global mission. Jesus said that the Gospel, repentance and forgiveness of sins, would be proclaimed to all nations. We’ll see a key example next week. This global Gospel is a key part of God’s Big Story from Abraham to Revelation.
God the Holy Spirit has chosen to live in people and use them as the vessels for communicating the Word of the Gospel, even as He works to prepare hearts to receive that Gospel. We live in the age of the Spirit when He takes the lead in building the Kingdom of God to glorify the Son and the Father. We see both in Scripture and our own lives the Holy Spirit’s withness, his wordness and his witness. He indwells, he informs, and he empowers.
Let’s close by walking quickly through Acts 2, the coming of the Holy Spirit. I’m going to paraphrase much of this, but highlight the key verses that show withness, wordness and witness. In Acts 2:1, the disciples and the rest of the believers are obeying Jesus’ command to wait. They are together in the upper room in Jerusalem. It’s fifty days after the resurrection, a Jewish feast day celebrating the first fruits of the grain harvest. It’s ten days after the ascension, and now God the Holy Spirit comes. There is the sound of a mighty rushing wind and tongues of fire which, verse 3 “rested on each one of them, 4and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” This is the withness, the indwelling. It’s fascinating that these tongues of fire separate and rest on each one. They are each filled. This is the promise kept. And as I said earlier, the Holy Spirit keeps this promise to everyone who, by his grace, puts their faith in Jesus.
Yet Scripture also teaches that there will come times when He is present in a special way to fill and overflow his people for witness. That’s what happens here. They begin to speak in other tongues, and in this circumstance that speaking in tongues is directly related to the witness of the Holy Spirit to Jesus. Notice, withness, each individually filled, wordness, they speak words, and finally, witness. The words engage the hearers with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Luke says there are people gathered for the feast from all different nations, and because of the power of the Spirit they each hear the Good News in their own language. This is a perfect metaphor for the process of witness. It’s not just the Spirit empowering us to say words, it’s the Spirit empowering people to hear those words. In this case it is made even more evident by speaking and hearing in tongues, but the same miracle occurs anytime one hears with faith.
Some, of course, do not hear with faith. They think the Apostles are drunk. So Peter stands up and in the power of the Holy Spirit, witnesses of Jesus. He says “not drunk. it’s only nine in the morning. You’re seeing the presence of the Holy Spirit whom God promised. He uses verses in Joel that we haven’t even had a chance to touch to show from Scripture that God planned all along to pour out His Spirit on His people. Peter also picks the passage because it ends, verse 21, by saying “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Do you see what he’s doing? The Spirit has called to mind a passage, that’s wordness, and he’s using it for witness.
Peter then tells them, or reminds them of Jesus and his works and his crucifixion. He who denied Jesus by the fire now boldly tells this crowd “you crucified and killed him by the hands of lawless men.” But then he gets to the heart of witness, the truth of the resurrection. Again the Holy Spirit gives him words from Scripture, from Psalm 16 which we studied months ago. “you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.”
Peter points out that David did die, was buried and saw corruption. But he prophesied of Jesus. Verse 31 “he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ.’ Verse 32, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Witness is not just an activity of men empowered by the Spirit. It is a pointing and pointing and pointing to the reality of Jesus crucified and risen. Nothing else is true witness. Verse 36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
The Spirit is at work in Peter. To indwell, first, then to illuminate the Scriptures, then to empower for witness. Because, verse 37, “when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ The Spirit convicts these people of their sin, as Jesus promised. No witness is effective without the work of the Spirit both in the speaker and the hearer. Peter tells these people to repent and be baptized, to receive the forgiveness of sins. The word believe is not used here, but is implied, and it is used in dozens of other places in Acts, as it was in the Gospels and will be in the Epistles. Peter is preaching faith in Jesus. And the Spirit moves in three thousand people to turn from sin, trust in God, receive forgiveness, receive the Spirit and witness to all that by baptism.
So what are the promises? Withness, Wordness and Witness. The Spirit, today, still, is calling us and all those around us to faith so that the Big Idea promise of his dwelling with us can be fulfilled through the Holy Spirit. Paul prays that “you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” That’s my prayer. And God’s Holy Spirit living in you is not only the presence of Christ, but he is the illuminator of the Word, underlining it in neon at just the right times and just the right ways to minister to your spirit and to supernaturally minister in the lives of others. Thus we need not fear to witness, for he gives us his presence and his word and empowers us to show others the beauty and truth of salvation in Jesus Christ. Welcome, Holy Spirit. Do your work in us and through us.