“The Holy Spirit”
January 10, 2010
The Holy Spirit Unites God and Man because He is God in Man.
I. The Father in the Son (John 14:1-11)
II. The Spirit in the Believer (John 14:12-21)
III.. The Believer in the World (John 14:22-31)
Sometime last year I heard a radio interview on the Diane Rehm show with a novelist from India named Salman Rushdie. They were discussing Rushdie’s books, and the topic of God came up in the conversation. Rushdie was explaining that, though he was raised a Muslim, he now considers himself to be an agnostic, which means that he believes it’s possible that there could be some kind of a God who really exists, but he doesn’t think it is possible to be sure about it, and so he doesn’t practice any religion. At this point, Mrs. Rehm said, “How could we ever know for sure if there really is a God?” And Rushdie replied, “I guess He would have to show up.”
Well, as Christians, our faith is built on the assumption that God has shown up. Last week, we began our 3-part study of the Trinity by looking at John chapter 1, and we learned that Jesus Christ has revealed God to man because He is God and man. So as I listened to that conversation I was imagining what I would say if I had been there. I would’ve told him all about Christ and the fact that He is God in the flesh, and so we don’t have to wonder who God really is because He did show up. But something tells me that probably would not have been good enough for him. I mean, he’s a world-famous author, he’s a well educated man. Certainly he is aware of Christianity, and certainly he knows that we believe that Jesus revealed God to us in person. But he still doesn’t believe, because that’s not really what he meant. He didn’t mean, God would have to show up 2000 years ago, he meant that he wanted God to show up now so that he could see for himself. That’s what he meant by saying, God would have to show up.
So we have a bit of a problem don’t we? I mean, yes it is true that Jesus has come in the flesh and revealed God to us, but, then He left. He went back to the Father. So, it’s nice to talk about having a face-to-face relationship with God through Christ, but since He went back to heaven we still basically learn everything we know about Christ through a book, don’t we? And though it’s possible to know a lot about someone through a book, that is not the same thing as actually knowing that person. So the question is, how can we still be united with God in this new, “face-to-face relationship,” if the One who mediates that relationship is gone? Now of course, we have the promise of His return, and so we can take heart in the fact that though we do not see Him now, He is coming back, and we will see Him then. But can we really say with honesty, that we have a relationship with God through Christ now? Or can we just say that we know some more things about God for now because of Christ? Fortunately for us, there is an answer to this dilemma and it actually relates very closely to the doctrine of the Trinity.
Today, we are going to study John chapter 14. And we will discover that Jesus addressed this problem with His disciples before He left. He was concerned that His disciples understand that though He was going back to the Father, He was not abandoning them. There are three general principles that come out of this text, that help us understand how the problem is resolved. First of all, we will see the same thing that we saw last week in John chapter 1, that the Father is in the Son, and doing His work through Him. Second, we will see that just as the Father works through the Son because He is in Him, so the Father and the Son work in believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And through the community of believers, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit do their work in the world. As we study John 14 this morning we are going to discover that the Holy Spirit unites God and man, because He is God in man.
John 14 begins in the middle of a conversation where Jesus has just informed His disciples that one of them is going to betray Him, He has told them that He is only going to be with them for a little while longer, and He has revealed that Peter is going to deny him three times. The disciples were upset by this, and so Jesus says to them in verses 1-7:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going." 5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."
Jesus tells His disciples that His departure will not be permanent. He is going away to prepare a place for them, and He will eventually return and take them to be where He is. But in the meantime, how are they to carry on their relationship with God through Christ when Christ is in heaven? In the following verses, Jesus answers that by explaining that the way He related to the Father when He was on the earth, is the same way that His followers will relate to Him now that He has ascended to heaven. Let’s read verses 8-11,
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." 9Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
There is a principle summarized in verse 10, that tells us how Jesus related to the Father during His earthly ministry. He says, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words that I say to you are not just my own. Rather it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.” So the principle is this: because the Father is united with the Son, He is able to do His work through the Son. This is one of the most commonly repeated things that Jesus says in John’s gospel. Over and over again He emphasizes the fact that He is not here to do His own will, but the will of the Father who sent Him. When Jesus says, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me,” He affirms what we learned from John chapter 1, that the Father and Son are distinct in personhood, and united in their essence. You see, it would be nonsense for Jesus to say, “I am in myself, and myself is in me.” So there is a difference between the two Persons. And yet, they are one. Just as in John 1:1 it says, “The Word was God,” so in John 14 the unity of the Father and the Son is so complete that Jesus can say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” This unity is what produced the words and deeds that reveal God to man through Jesus.
This principle of unity by which Jesus experienced His relationship with the Father when He was physically here on earth, is the same principle that allows us to experience our relationship with Jesus, even though He is in heaven now. If you’re wondering how in the world that could be possible, look at verses 12-21.
12“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. 15If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
John’s writing style is fascinating but it’s also confusing sometimes, because he doesn’t just move in a linear way from one topic to the next. He moves in a spiral. He picks up a theme, and then moves on to something else, and then circles back again to the first thing and finally he ends up with 8 or 10 different themes interconnected in a very complex way. That’s what’s happening here. In verses 9-11, Jesus started off by talking about the oneness that he has with the Father, and how that unity allows the Father to work miracles through Him. Then, that thought leads him to talk about the miracles that His disciples will do, which leads Him back to the theme of unity again. Only this time, instead of talking about the unity of the Father and the Son, He’s describing the unity of the believer with the Holy Spirit. He says in verse 17 that the Holy Spirit will be in those who believe, and this indwelling does the same two things for us that Jesus’s union with the Father did for Him. It allows us to do certain things by the power of the Spirit, and it allows us to have a relationship with God through Christ by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
First, He tells them that the one who has faith in Him will do even greater things than He has done. Now, Jesus walked on water, He healed the sick and the blind, He cured lepers with a touch, He stilled the stormy sea with the power of His word, and He raised people from the dead! So, He probably does not mean that we will do more spectacular kinds of miracles than He did, because I don’t know how much more spectacular you could get. In the book of Acts, we read about how the apostles did all the same kinds of miracles that Jesus did. But they were not really greater in the sense of being more spectacular.
The clue to what He means is in that last phrase of verse 12, “because I am going to the Father.” You see, when Jesus was here on the earth, He did the miracles to reveal Himself as God incarnate, but most folks didn’t get it. After the crucifixion and the resurrection, and after the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost - then they got it! The apostles were transformed into very different men! Peter, the one who denied Jesus three times, became such a great preacher that when he delivered his first sermon, 3000 people trusted in Christ! When Jesus said that His disciples would do greater works than Him because He was going to the Father, He was referring to their greater ability to clearly reveal who Christ is, in light of the fact that He had completed His work of dying for the sins of humanity and rising from the dead.
That’s the big picture context that we need to have in mind when we read His statement that He will do whatever we ask in His name. He’s not talking about asking Him for more toys, and then pasting the phrase, “in Jesus name” at the end of the prayer like a magic formula. He’s talking about asking Him for things that will help us more clearly reveal His identity to the world. And the point of all this is, “that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” Jesus came so that we could have a relationship with God. So we see that Jesus’ return to the Father makes it possible for God to be revealed and glorified even more effectively than if He had stayed. And it all happens through the indwelling of the Spirit. In verses 20-21 we see that not only does the Spirit’s indwelling help us reveal God, He also allows us to have a relationship with God through Christ, even though Christ is not physically here.
“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."
Back in verse 9 Jesus said that He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him. Here in verse 20, Jesus uses that same language to describe the unity that we have with Him and with God the Father through the Spirit. All of you are still sitting down and looking pretty calm, so I’ll say that again. Back in verse 9, Jesus said that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. Here in verse 20, Jesus uses that same language to describe the unity that we have with Him and with God the Father, through the Spirit.
Now, I’ve just been arguing that that kind of talk is proof of the Trinity. I’ve been arguing that the language John uses, and the language Jesus uses to describe His relationship with the Father, is proof that there is one God, who eternally exists as three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these three are distinct in personhood, but united in essence. That’s the doctrine of the Trinity. But if the same language can be applied to us, does that mean that we become God? Some people have concluded that from reading this, but frankly, I’m not comfortable with that.
Well if that makes you uncomfortable too, you’ll be relieved to know that there is some more data that we have to consider before we conclude that we can become God. You see, while it’s true that John uses the same language to talk about the unity that Jesus has with God, and the unity that we have with God through the Spirit; there’s another thing that it says about Christ, that it never says about us. Remember John 1? “In the beginning was the Word.” When we took that phrase apart last week, we saw that it is a claim to Jesus’s pre-existence. There are many more of these statements in John, for instance, in John 8:58 Jesus says, “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” With that statement, Jesus quoted what God said to Moses in Exodus 3:14 and applied it to Himself. When God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush, He called Himself, “I Am” because He wanted Moses and the people of Israel to understand that He is self-existent, He is eternal, no one gave Him life, He exists because He just does. Jesus claims the same thing for Himself over and over again in John. But the Bible never says that about us. He makes it very clear that we are created, dependent beings whose life is given to us, it is not intrinsic to our nature.
So, when Jesus says, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” He is not saying that we will ever be as great as God is, this is not pantheism, we don’t become gods, but He is saying that we will be united with God, and we will share in the love that has existed for all eternity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. By the gracious gift of God, we have been brought into an eternal union, like a bride and a bridegroom, we have been brought into an eternal union with God through Christ, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In 2 Peter 1:4 he actually says that we “participate in the divine nature!”And what is the purpose of this union? Well, ultimately the purpose is worship. That’s what this is all leading to; an eternal state of delighting in God. This participation in the divine nature is what theologians call our “mystical union” with God. The union won’t be complete until we receive our glorified bodies at the resurrection, but because of the indwelling Spirit, we can experience a taste of this union now.
The desire to experience deeper levels of oneness with God has been the motivation for many Christians throughout history to withdraw from society and go someplace quiet like a cave in the wilderness, for the purpose of spending all their time in prayer, and just experiencing this mystical union. And of course there is a place for solitude, fasting, and prayer, we need to do those things. But let’s not forget what Jesus said in verse 15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” It’s important for you to know that in this context the nearest command that He gave is back in chapter 13 verses 34-35, He says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples when you love one another.” So this union that we have with God through the Spirit is not justification for going off and becoming a mystical hermit in a cave. The purpose of this spiritual union is that we may continue to experience our relationship with Christ, even though He’s gone, so that we may serve others.
So the work of the Holy Spirit in us moves us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. But it also affects the way we relate to the world. During His ministry, the disciples were expecting Jesus to reveal Himself to the world as King, and set up His earthly kingdom at that time. So in verse 22 we read, 22“Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, "But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?"
Judas wanted to know why Jesus was going to reveal Himself to the disciples but not to the world. And Jesus proceeds to tell Judas that He is going to reveal Himself to the world, but not in the way Judas expected. Listen to His answer.
23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, 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. 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave.”
Most of what Jesus says in verses 23-31 is repetition. He comes spiraling back to the same themes that we’ve been talking about the whole time. But the emphasis of this section is on how Christ is going to reveal Himself to the world, even after He’s gone. Notice that there’s a parallel between verse 23, and verse 31. In 23 Jesus tells Judas again, that anyone who loves Him will obey His teaching. Then, in verse 31, Jesus says that the world must learn that He loves the Father and that He does exactly what the Father has commanded Him. Jesus is telling Judas that He is going to reveal Himself to the disciples and not to the world, so that the disciples will reveal Christ to the world, because they have Christ in them through the Spirit.
In verse 31, when Jesus says that the world must learn that He loves the Father and obeys the Father, He’s talking about the crucifixion. Jesus submitted Himself to the Father, because, as He says in verse 28, “The Father is greater than I.”This refers to the Father’s position of authority within the Trinity. Jesus intends for His submissive, self-sacrificial, obedience to be the pattern for our submissive, self-sacrificial, obedience. And when the world sees us living that way, we will be revealing Christ to the world because it will be Christ acting in us through the Holy Spirit.
I have an Indian friend at our church in Dallas named Ronnie. Ronnie and his wife began attending our church a few years ago, and my wife and I spent time hanging out with them at various times. And you know how it is, when you get to know somebody a little bit, you begin to recognize certain characteristic tendencies that they have. The way they talk, the way they move, the way they laugh - everybody has little mannerisms that set them apart. Well, one Sunday morning I walked into the church and there was a grey-headed man standing in front of me, and he held out his hand and greeted me, and I said; “You must be Ronnie’s dad,” and he said, “Yes I am, how did you know?” And I said, “Because he looks exactly like you.” And he did look exactly like him, but it was more than just the shape of his face, it was all those subtle mannerisms that are hard to describe in words, but you notice them instantly. The goal of our Christian life is to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us through obedience motivated by love, to such an extent that when anybody looks at us, they will say, “You must be a Christian, because you look exactly like Jesus.”