The Ministry of the Holy Spirit


(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

April 8, 2001

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
John 16:4b-15

This morning our scripture reading and special music have all been related to Palm Sunday in celebration of the day that Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That certainly was a special and exciting day. But the events of that week passed quickly and the crowd changed from shouting Hosanna to shouting to crucify Jesus by Friday. In our study of John, we are studying the Upper Room Discourse which Jesus gave to His disciples just prior to His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus was celebrating Passover with His disciples and during the course of the meal He had already done many things. He had washed their feet and given them a very practical example of the humble service that His followers were to have to one another. Judas had been revealed as the betrayer (at least to John) and had left to do his dastardly deed. He had instituted the ordinance of Communion by changing the meaning of some of the elements in the Passover meal to represent Himself and the sacrifice He was about to make in order to free them from the bondage of their sins.

The disciples were troubled by the thought of Jesus going away from them, but Jesus had already told them many things to comfort them. He promised them that He would be preparing a place for them in His Father’s house and would return again for them that they might ever be with Him (14:1-4). He had further explained their relationship to Him and therefore also with the Father. Jesus also gave them several promises concerning answered prayer and the coming of the comforter. He promised them they would have His peace and His joy if they would abide in Him and demonstrate their love for Him by their obedience. He also gave instruction on what they were to do and how they were to treat one another. He warned them about the hatred the world would have for them, but even in that there would be comfort for such hatred was really directed at Jesus. When they received such persecution, it would be confirmation that they were becoming more like their master.

Troubled Disciples (vs. 4a-6)

Now, of course, the idea of being persecuted is not one that thrills anyone and so Jesus continues on in bringing them comfort in John 16. As we had pointed out in the first few verses last week, Jesus had warned them of the persecution so that they would be kept from stumbling when it came. They would not be caught unaware. He also explained at the end of 16:4, “And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”

The persecution that had come up to that point had been directed at Jesus. Now that He was going away, the persecution would be directed toward Jesus’ followers. In addition, while Jesus was bodily with them He could bring personal comfort to them as they faced various situations. Jesus would no longer be bodily with them. Where then would they receive comfort? Where would they receive direction? How would they know what to believe and to do?

Verses 5 & 6 speak of the sorrow that filled the hearts of the disciples as they thought about this.

“But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”

If the disciples had thought about it, they should have been glad for Jesus for He was going to return to His Father (14:28), but they had turned inward and were only thinking about how Jesus’ departure would affect them personally. I think we can all understand that because such news about what they would suffer as detailed in verses 2 & 3 about becoming outcasts and having people trying to murder you in the name of God is very sobering.

There are harsh realities to striving to live for the true God in an unrighteous society. The statement in 2 Tim. 3:12 that all who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted is sobering truth. But remember, that the Christian life is about truth and not about how comfortable you are or how successful you are according to the world’s standards. The health, wealth, prosperity gospel is a lie. Yes, God does graciously grant such things to Christians and non-Christians. There are physical and material benefits to living a holy life, but a very godly Christian may also live in poverty and/or with poor health. Christians do suffer at the sinful hands of those that do not know the true God (15:3). The Christian life centers on eternal truth regardless of temporal consequences.

The Advantage of Jesus’ Departure

Jesus was compassionate to their sorrow and in verse 7 begins to explain to them that despite the hardships they would have in the future, it was to their advantage that Jesus would accomplish His mission and go away, for then the Holy Spirit would come. He then goes on to explain the Holy Spirit and His ministry. This is the most detailed passage in all of scripture dealing with the Holy Spirit. Look at verses 7-15.

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. 12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear [them] now. 13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 “He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall disclose [it] to you. 15 “All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said, that He takes of Mine, and will disclose [it] to you.

The advantage to the disciples of Jesus’ departure is that the Holy Spirit would then come and do His ministry among them. Jesus is direct here that unless He left the Holy Spirit would not come, but He does not explain why that is true. While we cannot be dogmatic on this since He does not explain it, I do think there are some good reasons that have been suggested. One reason is that until Jesus completes His work on the cross and is raised from the dead, there would be nothing to merit the Holy Spirit to be able to bring about the adoption of men as sons of God? (See Romans 8:11; Gal. 4:5,6). On what basis could the Spirit bring about conviction of salvation in the righteousness in Christ when the payment for sin which would bring about such righteousness had not yet been made? The coming of the Spirit in the manner described was predicated upon the atonement having taken place. It would be in the “last days” that the Spirit would be poured out upon men in this manner (Acts. 2:17).

Jesus’ departure would not only be an advantage to them in eternity since He would be preparing a place for them in His Father’s house, but it was also an advantage in the temporal realm. It would only be after the coming of the Holy Spirit that the disciples would be able to do the greater works Jesus spoke of in John 14:12 that they would do. It would only be then that they would be drawn into a greater understanding of the relationship between the Father, the son and themselves (14:20). This would be part of the work of the Spirit in their lives.

Notice as well here the perfect cooperation within the triune Godhead. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, would not come prematurely, but precisely when the Son would send Him. But remember back in 14:26 Jesus had said the Father would send the Spirit in Jesus’ name. All three members of the triune Godhead work in perfect cooperation with one another. They have always done so.

For example: All three are involved in creation – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). Col. 1:16 states in reference to Jesus, “for by Him all things were created, both in the heaves and on the earth. . .” . It was the Spirit of God that moved over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). Psalm 33:6 states that it was By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host. All three are involved in Jesus resurrection from the dead. God raised Jesus from the dead – Acts 2:24; 1 Cor. 6:14; 2 Cor. 4:14; Eph. 2:4,5. In John 2:14 Jesus told the Jews that were seeking a sign that if they destroyed this temple, referring to His own body, He would raise it back up in three days. Jesus also said in John 10:18 that He had authority to lay His life down and take it up again. Romans 8:11 refers to the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead. The Holy Spirit also took part.

All three work in harmony in bringing a person to salvation. It is the Father that must draw a person to the Son (John 6:44). It is the Son who atoned for their sins and redeemed man so that they could be made righteous through faith (Rom. 3:21f), and no man can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11) as well as quickens and regenerates the soul (Titus 3:5) and then seals the promise (Eph. 1:13).

The members of the triune Godhead work in harmony with each other for while they are each distinct persons they are also one God. There are some groups that deny the deity of the Holy Spirit, but to do so is to deny Scripture. Throughout the Old Testament He is referred to as the Spirit of the Lord or Spirit of God. In the New Testament He is also called that and the Spirit of Christ. Peter specifically equates the Holy Spirit with God in Acts 5:3 when he tells Ananias that he had lied to the Holy Spirit and then in verse 4 stating that he had lied to God. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the triune Godhead – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ promise was that if He went, He would send the Holy Spirit to them. He explains in verses 8-15 the ministry of the Holy Spirit in convicting, guiding, glorifying and disclosing.

The Convicting Work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 8-11)

The convicting work of the Holy Spirit takes place in three areas – sin, righteousness and judgement. The first brings a person to understand their need of God’s mercy and forgiveness for their sin. The second two confirm that the only means of such forgiveness is through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The word convict here (elegcw /elegxo) means to bring to light or expose error often with the idea of reproving or rebuking. It brings about knowledge of believing or doing something wrong, but it does not mean that the person will respond properly to that knowledge. Our usage of the English word, convict, is similar.

You might talk to someone about something wrong they are doing and they become convicted that it is wrong and turn from it. That is what Paul referred to as sorrow according to God in 2 Cor. 7:10. It is conviction that leads to repentance. You can also expose a person’s sin and they feel sorry, but they do not turn from it. That is what Paul called the sorrow of the world. They are sorry they got caught. The response can vary from embarrassment to hostility.

The emphasis here is on the Holy Spirit revealing the truth and not on the response of the individual to whom it has been revealed. Much like a defendant in a court case, when the truth has come out in court and he is found guilty, he is convicted regardless of his own feelings, thoughts or response. The Holy Spirit brings out the truth and the person is convicted. Their response only reveals either their repentance or hardness of heart.

The first area that the Holy Spirit brings truth to bear is sin. He exposes a person’s guilt to them and calls them to repentance. Some will heed the call and be converted while others will defy the call and be hardened in their sin.

The Holy Spirit will use a variety of specific means to bring this about, but all of those means can be reduced down to bringing the truth of the word of God to bear upon the individual. The Holy Spirit may start the process in many ways, but the end of the process will be exposure to the Scriptures. It may happen directly as a person reads the Bible or a Bible tract for themselves and the Spirit brings them understanding of the truth for the first time. It could be through the faithful testimony of God’s people in both living in righteousness and proclaiming the Scriptures to others. It could be through cultural practices that can be traced back to Biblical truth or even the conscience which still bears witness of basic truths of God. The Holy Spirit can use these to bring about guilt that the person is desperate to relive and so begins their journey to truth and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has worked in such different ways in the lives of the people in our own congregation, but He always accomplishes the same thing. He brings the truth to light and thus exposes the evil in their hearts. He convicts of sin.

Notice in verse 9 that the conviction of sin is in relationship to believing in Jesus. Conviction of sin brings about the need for a savior. Those that turn from their sin to faith in Christ are saved from it and its consequences. Please understand that hell was not created for man but for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). The reason that people end up there is because they refuse to believe in Jesus Christ and so their name is not written in the book of life. Revelation 20:11-15 makes it clear that those whose names are not in the book of life must stand before God on their own merits to be judged accordingly. This judgement is not on the basis of the good out weighing the bad. That is not justice. It will be on whether the person has kept God’s law or not. It is their own sinful deeds that will condemn them. So it is that the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin upon those who do not believe in Jesus that they might turn and believe in Him for salvation.

The Holy Spirit also brings about conviction of righteousness. Verse 10 states that this conviction with respect to righteousness is in relationship to Jesus going to be with the Father. The religious leaders were going to crucify Jesus the next day claiming that He was an unrighteous blasphemer and on the cross Jesus would bear the sins of mankind. The disciples would no longer have Jesus physically with them in their day to day activities. But Jesus would not stay dead. It would be Jesus resurrection and ascension to be with the Father that proves that would His righteousness. He was rejected by the world, but received by the Father and it is God the Father that sets the standard and decides who is righteous and who is sinful. Jesus’ departure to be with the Father would prove His righteousness. He was a worthy sacrifice for sin and thus should be believed on for salvation. It would also bring about the conviction of the world of their unrighteousness in putting Him to death.

The Holy Spirit would also bring about conviction in respect to judgement because, as verse 11 states, the ruler of this world is judged. The cross was not a triumph for Satan, but the means of His own condemnation. The sentence of the devil’s judgement will be carried out on the last day when he is thrown into the eternal lake of fire and brimstone (Rev. 20:10). The judgement of the ruler of this world, the devil, also brings about the judgement of those that follow him.

The disciples, and us who have followed after them, have been given the task of proclaiming the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The Holy Spirit uses this to convict the world with respect to its own sin for not believing in Jesus, with respect to the righteousness of Jesus because He is fully vindicated when He was received by God the Father, and in respect to the judgement of God upon the devil.

The Guiding Work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 12-13)

In verse 12 Jesus tells them that there “many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” Jesus knew they were at their limit of what they could not handle. This may have been due in part to their own weakness, but until after the resurrection and coming of the Holy Spirit they would not be able to even understand much more. In the future, there would be much more revealed to them including not only the clarification and application of Jesus’ teachings in the epistles, but the events of the last days themselves in the book of Revelation.

Those additional things that Jesus wanted to say would come through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Here in verse 13 the Spirit is again called the Spirit of Truth, but here Jesus adds that the Spirit will guide them into all truth. The idea of guiding is “leading the way.” The Holy Spirit does not drive, but exerts His influence upon the regenerated mind of the believer to lead them to understand the truth. In the specific case of the apostles, this resulted in the epistles which expand and make application of what Jesus had taught them.

This ministry is still active in believers today for it is the Spirit that teaches us (1 John 2:27). The canon of Scripture is closed and no one is writing Biblical epistles (though some falsely claim to be doing so), but the Holy Spirit leads us to understand truth and error, right and wrong, good and evil and to apply the word of God and its principles to life.

The Spirit of Truth guides to truth and truth is always in keeping with what the Father speaks. Again, we find the harmony and cooperation between the members of the triune God. The Holy Spirit does not act on His own, but is sent by the Son and speaks only what the Father has said. That is the same thing Jesus said of Himself (John 12:49:14:10).

Let me point out here that the Holy Spirit is a person. The Greek word for “spirit” (pneuma / pneuma) is neuter. For that reason some groups have tried to make the Holy Spirit an “it” instead of a person. But throughout the text the pronouns used are masculine, which in Greek, attributes the idea of masculine to the noun it is used with and thus personhood. But the case for the Spirit being a person is much more strong than just this for He has all the attributes of personhood. He has a mind (1 Cor. 2:10,11 – the Spirit of God knows the mind of God; Romans 8:27 – the mind of the Spirit). He has emotions (Eph. 4:30 – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God). He has a will (1 Cor. 12:11 – But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills). Those who reject the personhood, and thus deity, of the Holy Spirit are in grievous error and dishonor God.

The Glorifying Work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 14)

Verse 14 points out that work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus. I believe that is an important point to understand about the Spirit. The Father glorifies the Son and the Son glorifies the Father (John 17:4,5) and both are glorified by the Spirit. We do not find the glory of the Spirit spoken of in the same way.

The reason that I mention this is that we live in a day when in some circles of Christianity an unusual, and I might add, improper emphasis is given to the worship of the Spirit. As a member of the triune Godhead, the Spirit is worthy of our worship, but we do not find that to be the emphasis within the Scripture or even in keeping with His ministry. His purpose is to glorify the Son and the Father. I believe that we go against that purpose when we take away that emphasis and place it on Him. This is simply a note of caution to ourselves that we should be careful to follow the Spirit’s example in this area as well as all others.

The Spirit glorifies Jesus by taking what is Jesus’ and disclosing it to the disciples. As verse 15 points out, all things that the Father has also belong to Jesus. Jesus had this ministry of telling His disciples what the Father had said during His ministry on earth (John 15:15). That ministry will in the future through the Holy Spirit.

This ministry involves both the leading into all truth mentioned in verse 13 and the disclosure of additional truth.

The Disclosing Work of the Holy Spirit

This disclosure or revelation is mentioned in verses 13,14 & 15. In verse 13 it refers to this as disclosing what is to come. It is a reference to the “more things” Jesus had to say to them but which would have to wait for a future time. Jesus would reveal those “more things” through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. For the most part the teachings of the epistles are clarifications, applications and expansions of what Jesus had taught and the principles based on that. But there are also areas in the epistles that do give additional revelation of how God wants things to be. There is also the prophetic elements, in particular the book of Revelation, in which Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, discloses for the disciples and we who follow them and understanding of things yet to come.

The Holy Spirit is the third person in the triune Godhead and His ministry is very important. It is because of His ministry that we can have confidence that the Bible is faithful and true to what God has said. It is because of His ministry that anyone ever responds to our proclamation of the gospel.

Perhaps that is a good place to conclude this morning. We don’t save anyone. It is God that saves them. Our part is to pray and witness. His part is to convict, quicken and draw them to Himself. That removes the pressure and gives us confidence to tell the gospel.


Sermon Study Sheets


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word “Spirit” is used 2) Talk with your parents about who the Holy Spirit it, what He does and your relationship to Him.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is the context of John 16:5-15? What is Jesus seeking to do for the disciples? Why was it an advantage to the disciples that Jesus would go way? What are some of the things in the Bible that only God can do that are attributed to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? How else do we know that the Holy Spirit is deity, a third member of the Godhead? What does it mean that the Holy Spirit will convict? What does this conviction of sin concern? What does this conviction of righteousness concern? What does this conviction of judgement concern? What is your part then in the salvation of another person? Why could not the disciples bear at that time the rest of the things Jesus had to say to them? When would He say those things to them? What is truth? What evidence is there that the Holy Spirit is a person and not a power or force? How does the Spirit guide into all truth? How does that ministry function in our own day? How does this ministry parallel the ministry Jesus had among the disciples? Who does the Spirit glorify? Who does Jesus glorify? Who does the Father glorify? What is the Holy Spirit’s ministry of disclosure? How do you see the Holy Spirit working in your life?

Sermon Notes – 4/8/2001 A.M.

The Ministry of the Holy Spirit – John 16:4b – 15


The Disciple’s Sorrow (vs. 5,6)

The Advantage of Jesus’ Departure (vs. 7)

The Deity of the Holy Spirit

Creation: Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:16; Gen. 1:2; Psalm 33:6

Resurrection – Acts 2:24; 1 Cor. 6:14; Eph. 2:4,5; John 2:14; John 10:18; Romans 8:11

Salvation: John 6:44; Rom. 3:21f; John 14:6; 16:8-11; Titus 3:5; Eph. 1:13.

The Convicting Work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 8-11)





The Guiding Work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 12-13)

The Personhood of the Spirit

Masculine, not neuter

Attributes of personhood: A mind (1 Cor. 2:10); Emotions (Eph. 4:30); a Will (1 Cor. 12:11)

Into all truth

What God reveals

The Glorifying Work of the Holy Spirit (vs. 14)

The Disclosing Work of the Holy Spirit

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