The ministry of the Spirit. 16:4b-15

In his upper room discourse, Jesus has already spoken of the Holy Spirit as helper and friend 14:16ff, in our passage for study he speaks of him as the prosecutor who convicts sinful humanity, and as the teacher of the people of God.

The passage

v5. Jesus has just touched on the theme of suffering, and now he announces to his disciples that he is going to the one who sent him. The disciples seem more concerned at his leaving than as to where he might be going.

v6. The thought of his going has filled the disciples with grief.

v7. Jesus tells the disciples that it is for their good that he goes away. The "good" ("it is expedient") is the coming of the Holy Spirit.

v8. This is the only passage of scripture which speaks of the Spirit's particular work in the "world". He will prosecute and bring about the world's conviction. Through the disciples' inspired preaching the world will know about sin, justice and judgment.

v9. The Holy Spirit will expose the guilt of a world which claims of itself the center of existence and refuses to believe in Christ - the "Babel" mentality. The Spirit will condemn this rebellion before God and will convict the inner conscience of the rebel.

v10. The Holy Spirit will also expose the world's paltry sense of justice, for Jesus will stand approved before God's judgment-seat, yet will be condemned in the world's eyes.

v11. The Holy Spirit will also expose the coming judgment, the coming condemnation of the world. This is even a "now" reality in that Satan has been overthrown through Christ's victory on the cross.

v12-13. Jesus now moves from the Spirit's work with the world to his work with believers. As the "Spirit of truth" he will lead us into "all truth." A central task of the Spirit's ministry is to guide believers into a deeper and deeper knowledge of the truth. This truth is found in Christ, so he will expound (exegete) Christ to the believer. This he will do through the apostles and their testimony, namely the New Testament. "He will tell you what is yet to come", that is, "He will show you the whole Christian way."

v14. The Spirit's ministry is to glorify Christ - to take what is Christ's and declare it to his friends.

v15. Jesus reminds us of the unity of truth that exists between the Father, the Son and the Spirit. To reveal the Son is to reveal the Father.

The Comforter

In chapter 15, verse 26, and in chapter 16, verses 4b-15, we learn of the Spirit's role in the Christian community.

i] Jesus calls the Spirit the Paraclete, 16:7. The word is usually translated "Comforter", but in the NIV it is translated "Counselor". In Greek society a paraclete was a kind of "advocate" who spoke on behalf of another person before a court of law. The paraclete need not be legally trained and may just be a character witness, or assistant to the person on trial. The meaning of the title Paraclete is probably something like "Comforter", but let's consider the options:

a) Comforter, Strengthener, Helper - he who aids and encourages.

b) Counselor - he who teaches us the things of God.

c) Advocate - he who pleads our cause before God.

d) Friend, "another to befriend you", Knox.

Which ever title we settle on, the Holy Spirit is sent to supply the disciples' needs, needs which were once met by Christ himself. The Spirit will continue the ministry of Jesus; he will be with us always. For the first disciples this was an intimate personal experience. The Holy Spirit bridges the divine distance, 16:4b-7.

ii] Jesus says he will send the Spirit, 16:7, but in 15:26 he adds "from the Father." This is known as the doctrine of the procession and is still one of great debate. The Eastern church believes that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, while the Western church decided in 589AD to accept the creedal statement "We believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son." The way of dealing with this concept, while not interfering with the doctrine of the trinity (one God in three persons), is to say that the Father is the fount of all deity, by whom the Son was begotten, and it is the Father and the Son together from whom the Spirit proceeds.

iii] Jesus calls the Holy Spirit "the Spirit of truth", or "the Spirit who communicates truth", 16:12-15. Jesus describes himself this way, in fact he is the truth, 14:6. The Spirit will bear witness concerning Jesus; he is a source of revelation about the truth as it is found in the person and work of Jesus.

In Chapter 16, verses 8-11, we learn of the Spirit's role in the world. When he comes he will expose the world's folly regarding sin, justice and judgment. First, about sin; the world's ongoing rejection of Christ. Second, about justice; God's affirmation of Christ exposes the world's condemnation. Finally, about judgment; the powers of darkness are condemned. The Spirit performs this work through the people of God.

We see, therefore, how important it is to affirm the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives.


Outline the Spirit's ministry from the passage and the practical ways his ministry is exercised through believers today.