We’re continuing in our series through Jesus’ farewell speech in John 14-17. So far, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to those who love him and obey his teaching. The Spirit will be like Jesus – another advocate/counsellor who is God’s presence, alongside us and fighting for us. What’s more, the Spirit dwells in us…
The Spirit is the means by which God is present with us and in us
John 14:23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
This is a crucial part of the whole storyline of the Bible. Let me give you a quick overview: It starts off in the garden of Eden where humanity lived in the presence of God. Sin came, and as a result Adam and Eeve were cast out of the garden. God no longer could live with the people he had created. Throughout the OT we see God graciously dwelling among his people, in a special tent and then in his temple. But there was still a barrier – a curtain that separated the people from God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.
When Jesus died – dealing with our sin – that curtain was torn. Instead of being veiled and separated from us in his temple, God is again able to truly make his home with his people. We are now the temple of God, with God’s presence living in us. And this is merely a foretaste, a downpayment on the communion we will have with God in the age to come. As it says in the last book of the Bible:
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
For the moment, though, God is present with us and in us through his HS:
John 14:15-17 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the 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.”
Now Jesus says the Spirit will be both ‘with’ and ‘in’ us. The advocate alongside us and the God who dwells in us. Don Carson writes that it’s important to retain both perspectives:
“Where the first is lost and we speak only of the Spirit ‘in’ us, there is a tendency to slide towards a mysticism which does not adequately distinguish between the HS and ourselves. Our desires, our hopes, our wills may then be indistinguishable in our minds from the desires and promptings of the HS. In the worst case a man deifies himself… Where the first is retained at the expense of the second, and people speak only of the Spirit ‘with’ them but not ‘in’ them, the marvel of the Spirit’s condescension and operation in the NT are easily overlooked… [Jesus’] disciples need more than that: they need the very presence within them of the one who gives them new life, sanctifies them…. [He] makes the presence of deity so immediate… that they never again see themselves as abandoned orphans.” (Don Carson, The Farewell discourse and final prayer of Jesus, p.55.)
The Holy Spirit, then, is both external to us and within us. He is alongside us, preserving the distinction between us and God – otherwise we ourselves would be God. But he is within us, enabling the deepest of fellowship with the God who sent his son to die so we could be his friends again.
The Spirit will not be seen by ‘the world’
But for those who still remain opposed to God – what John calls ‘the world’ – they will not see the Spirit.
John 14:21-22 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” 22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”
Judas’ question makes sense, particularly if you were a first century Jew who thought you were following the Messiah. Back in John chapter 7 we read how Jesus’ brothers were encouraging Jesus to take his miracle show on the road, up to Jerusalem. No self-respecting would-be Messiah would hide from everyone.
John 7:4 “No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.”
The trouble is, the popular view of the Messiah was one of a political and military leader, who would rid the Jewish nation from Roman rule; not one who would die a humiliating death on a cross. So Judas is quite understandably confused: how can you not show yourself to the world if you’re going to be the Messiah.
However, Jesus is bringing a very different kind of kingdom. A few verses later he says this:
John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…”
Jesus said this at a time of relative peace in the ancient world. The famous Pax Romana or ‘Roman peace’, which was really peace at the point of a sword. The Romans brought peace, or else. Either you chose to submit to Roman rule or you were conquered.
But Jesus’ peace is a different kind of peace, and he brings it in a different way. Jesus’ kingdom is a different kind of kingdom. A kingdom of transformed individuals, who have the Spirit living with and in them.
John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone 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
The Spirit is only evident to those who belong to Jesus, because the Spirit only indwells believers. The kingdom of God is – at the present moment – not visible. Rather it exists within those who have willingly submitted to God’s rule; who demonstrate their love for Jesus by obeying his teaching.
This leads to one of the most important functions of the Spirit – helping us to remember and put into practice Jesus’ teaching. But we’ll get to that tomorrow…