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Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

The Work of the Spirit in the Gospel of John

I.  Introduction:

Since we have decided to break our teaching on the work of the Spirit in the Gospels along the lines of Synoptic Gospels and John, let me begin tonight with a quick word about this division. The term ĎSynoptic Gospelsí refers to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These gospels are similar in their wording and structure. So much so that it has been speculated (in different ways) that the ones writer later were aware of the earliest one. One such speculation would sound like this: Matthew and Luke were dependent upon Mark, which was written first. Figuring out which was written first is not necessarily critical to studying these books, but the overlap between them is obvious. So then, what about John? Although there is some overlap in Johnís gospel, for the most part, it seems to have been written independent of the others, not including certain items and including others. Yet, at the end of the day, none of this means that we should view any of the Gospels as less or more important than the others. They are all equally inspired by the Spirit, equally Godís Word, and therefore, equally important for our study. So tonight, letís turn our attention to the Gospel of John and the work of the Spirit found there.

II. Passages:

A. John 1:29-34 Since we discussed this last week, I only want to mention this passage. John the Baptist affirms that when he saw the Spirit descending upon Christ at His baptism, he knew that Jesus was the One who would baptize with the Spirit.

B. John 3:3-8 Jesus is here speaking to Nicodemus and teaching him of the necessity of being born again. After Nicodemus asks how that is possible, Jesus explains that a person must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God. He goes on in verse 8 to compare the work of the Spirit to the wind. Just as the wind blows where it wishesÖso it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. I think Jesus is teaching about the unseen work of the Spirit in regenerating someone as well as the Sovereignty of the Spiritís work. We cannot see (or control) the work of the Spirit in regeneration, but we can see the evidence of it (like the wind).

C. John 6:63 Jesus has been teaching his disciples about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. He is here explaining to them that His words are spirit and life. In this context, He makes the contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. He says that the flesh is of no avail, while it is the Spirit who gives life. So once again, Jesus teaches us of the importance of new life that only comes through the Spirit (and not of the flesh).

D. John 7:38-39 Jesus teaches all who come to Him will have rivers of living water flowing from their hearts. John then comments and tells us that this is a reference to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive. Thus again, we see the promise of the Spirit for the followers of Christ. John goes on to say that the Spirit would not be given until after Jesus was glorified (seemingly referring to the ascension of Christ). We will consider this again at 20:22 (see below).

E. John 14:15-26 Let me break this passage into some sections. First, look at 15-17. Jesus tells the disciples that the Father will send the Spirit, or Helper (Paraclete), to be with them forever. What a promise!! Interestingly, Jesus goes on and says: You know him (Spirit), for he dwells with you and will be in you. Thus, the Spirit is already dwelling with the disciples, but in the future He will be in you. I think this points us to the indwelling of the Spirit after Pentecost and gives us some insight on the role of the Spirit in the disciplesí life prior to Pentecost. Second, look at 25-26. Again Jesus says that the Father will send the Spirit. Notice that the Sprit will be sent after Jesus is no longer with them. Also, He says here that the Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. This would be a clear reference to the Spiritís work of inspiring the Scriptures and also implies His work of guiding Jesusí followers into truth (primarily through the witness of the disciples, thus, illumination).

F. John 15:26 Once again we see that the Spirit will be given by the Father. Jesus also teaches that the Spirit will bear witness about me. The Spirit will point others to Christ. His work will be to bear witness about the beauties and glories of Christ and all He did in His death, burial, and resurrection. We should add that Jesus goes on to speak of the disciples bearing witness as well, which is done in the power of the Spirit.

G. John 16:7-15 Letís walk through this passage together. In verse 7, Jesus again teaches that the Spirit will come after He has gone. In conjunction with the Father, after Jesus departs, He will send the Spirit and this will be to your advantage. In verses 8-11 we see that the Spirit will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. Thus, conviction is part of the continuing work of the Spirit. Now look at verses 12-13. Once again we see that the Spirit will guide the disciples into all truth (inspiration), which probably includes our understanding of what He inspires (illumination). Notice that he will declare to you the things that are to come, which seems to be a possible reference to Jesusí death and itís implications for the Church and the still future consummation. 1 Look at verses 14-15. Once again, we see that the Spirit will bear witness and bring glory to the Son. His ministry is to point others to Christ and bring glory to Him. Anything that does not point to Christ and bring glory to Him cannot be said to be the work of the Spirit. This work was primarily fulfilled with the inspiration of the Scriptures (including the very text of John).

H. John 20:22 Of course, the interpretation of this passage is debated. I struggle to affirm that the disciples received the Spirit in the same sense as Pentecost here because Jesus repeatedly talks about the Spirit only being given after He has gone to the Father (see above references). The other options that seem viable to me are that the disciples received the Spirit in some other sense (of course, the difficulty with this is in what sense) or that Jesusí actions and words here are ďa kind of acted parable pointing forward to the full enduement still to come.Ē 2 Either way, I still see the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost (in Acts 2) as a unique event in redemptive history and as the decisive moment when the disciples fully received the Spirit (although subsequent fillings were to follow, see the book of Acts).

III. Implications:

A. The Spirit convicts and regenerates. Jesus taught Nicodemus that one must be born again of the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom. He also taught the disciples that it is the Spirit who gives life (6:63). Likewise, it is the Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness (or their lack thereof), and judgment. Thus, we conclude that part of the Spiritís work is to convict men of their need for repentance and to give them new life in Christ. As Jesus taught Nicodemus, we affirm that the Spirit is sovereign in this work and even though we cannot see the actual regeneration work, we can see its evidence, or fruit.

B. The Spirit leads into truth. In the context of the Gospel of John and Jesusí teaching, we need to see that this work of the Spirit is primarily fulfilled by the disciples themselves in their writing of the New Testament. We do not need to make the error that somehow we too can write (or speak) Spirit inspired truth that is on par with Scripture. No, in that sense, the work of inspiration is over and the Canon is closed. Yet, we can still affirm that the Spirit will lead the followers of Christ into truth by illuminating the inspired text. Likewise, as we shall see in the remainder of the New Testament, the Spirit continues to lead the followers of Christ into truth in other means, always in harmony with the inspired text (more on that to come). But do not run ahead. We need to see and affirm the importance of the Spiritís work in inspiring the disciples to write the New Testament and always view it as the primary means that the Spirit uses to lead us into truth.

C. The Spirit glorifies Christ. If we miss this from the teaching of Christ, then we will miss the work of the Sprit altogether. He does not work to glorify individuals, or Churches, or even Himself. No, the Spirit works to glorify Christ. This serves as a simple test for evaluating what people claim to be Ďthe work of the Spirit.í If such work does not ultimately glorify Christ, then we can reject it as not being a work of the Spirit. I should also say that this teaching serves to keep us grounded in all our discussions and considerations of the work of the Spirit. We must constantly keep in mind that the Spirit works to glorify Christ; that is His goal.

IV. Conclusion:

All of the Gospels teach us that Jesus was filled with the Spirit and carried out His ministry in the power of the Spirit. Likewise, they all teach that His followers would be filled with the Spirit. He was the fulfillment of the Spirit-anointed Messiah. In the weeks to come, we will look at the fulfillment of the promise that all of Godís people would be filled with the Spirit. Amen.

1 D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John (PNTC) (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmanís Publishing Company, 1991), p. 540-41.

2 Ibid., p. 655. Carson discusses this at length, for more see p. 649-55.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 02 March 2009 )

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