Monday, August 6, 2007

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit Indwells
Rev. Ken Burdick
Transcript of a presentation given at the 2007 SDB General Conference,
meeting at George Fox University, Newberg Oregon

Today, we’re talking about the Spirit, God’s Spirit, living within us. “But wait!” you say. “Apart from a few notable exceptions (like his appearance in the burning bush), isn’t this the God whose immediate presence could not be directly approached in OT times, except once a year (on the Day of Atonement), by only one person (the High Priest) and only after being cleansed with the blood of sacrifice sprinkled on his garments? So now you’re saying that this Almighty, Holy God could actually be living in me, as I stand at the pump at a gas station and pump gas!?” Well, that trivializes the concept (by ignoring it’s purpose), but yes, that’s basically what we’re talking about. Wow!” Wow, indeed!

Where does this belief come from? Answer: the promise of Jesus in John 14:15-17:
If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - 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, if you are unfamiliar with this, it can sound pretty unbelievable: the Spirit of God living in you. But if we believe Jesus when he says, “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life” or “whoever comes to me I will never drive away,” then why shouldn’t we believe him when he makes this promise about the Spirit? This promise was made:

First, because Jesus was leaving. He told his disciples:
My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. John 13:33
To those who had spent every waking hour with Jesus, who had followed him and depended on him, because he had the words of eternal life… to them, how shocking must this statement have sounded! “You will look for me, and… where I am going, you cannot come.” But Jesus was referring to his death, resurrection and ascension to the Father… and he prepared his disciples for this (in the talk sometimes called the Farewell Discourse). That’s the context in which he made his promise about the indwelling Spirit: in his final instructions to them, before his glorification. The emphasis of this instruction is on encouragement, which is a note sounded at the very beginning of the discourse, when Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1a), and at the end (John 16:33b), when he says “Take heart!”

Second, this promise was made to Jesus’ disciples as disciples. That’s the context in John 13:35:
By this all men will know that you are my disciples.
And Jesus looked toward the disciples doing what he had been doing, which is the responsibility of a disciple (John 14:12b):
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.
We have a hard time with this concept of our lives as disciples. We’re too used to having everything relate to our personal goals and individual agendas. We’re too used to thinking of ourselves in other categories. We think of ourselves as who we are at work. We think of ourselves as who we are in our families and neighborhood. We think about wanting to gain people’s respect. We think about paying off the mortgage. We even think about improving our golf game! But what about our lives as disciples? How often do we think about our lives as disciples? But that’s what the Spirit’s presence in us is to help us with, as we see from the start in Jesus’ instruction.

Third, this promise was made as part of Jesus’ provision for his disciples’ needs:
a. An eternal home (or “room” in the Father’s house), John 14:1-6 (followed by a discussion of Jesus as revealing the Father, John 14:7-11);
b. A promise of answered prayer, as they carry on with the things Jesus had done in his ministry, John 14:12-14; and then the provision that is the subject of this morning’s study,
c. the promise of another “Counselor” (NIV) to be with them, and in them, forever, John 14:15-17.
But who is indwelt by the Spirit? Answer: the Spirit lives in those who are:
a. disciples (John 13:35; 14:12) and therefore also,
b. believers “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:39a) and therefore also,
c. Not of the world “The world cannot accept him” (John 14:17b).
When does the Spirit come? Historically, he came after (and because) Jesus died, was raised and ascended to the Father. John 7:39 tells us, “Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” And Jesus tells his disciples in John 16:7, “Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Today (the implication is) that the Spirit comes when anyone becomes a disciple/and believer. For why would a gift that is essential to a disciple be withheld from anyone who is a disciple? And, on the basis of Romans 8:9, we cannot really conceive of anyone belonging to Christ and not having the Spirit.

What we’ve considered so far concerns the major question, “Where does this belief (in an indwelling Spirit) come from?” It comes from the promise of Jesus in the Farewell Discourse.

Now let’s consider a second major question: “What does the Spirit do?”

Many have sought an answer to this in the title Jesus gives the Spirit in John 14:16, “Counselor” (NIV). That translates the word, "paravklhto" (parakletos). So, using a transliteration, the Holy Spirit has been called, “The Paraclete.” There are five passages in the Farewell Discourse that talk about the Spirit as the paraclete: 1) 14:16-17, 2) 14:26, 3) 15:26-27, 4) 16:7-11, 5) 16:12-15.

The word “Paraclete” is derived from words meaning “called alongside.” The basic meaning is, “summoned, called to one's side, esp. called to one's aid” (Thayers). Bible translations have used different words for “paraclete,” based on the meanings possible in different contexts:
a. Court room: “Counselor” (NIV), “Advocate” (TNIV),
b. Beyond the court room: “Helper” (GNB, NASB)
c. Active sense (Consoler): “Comforter” (Wycliffe, KJV)
None of these is the perfect translation, because (in John), the Paraclete is a witness (15:26-27) or prosecutor (16:7-11), but not an advocate or counsel for the defense. He is a teacher or guide, which fits “counselor,” but not in the legal sense. To call him a “comforter” in the Elizabethan sense of “strengthener” would be okay, but today that word means “consoler,” which gives an active sense for the “called” part of the word (that almost all commentators rule out). Herman Ridderbos wisely comments:
For the specific use and meaning of the name “Paraclete” in John 14-16 we are dependent on the texts themselves and cannot base our conclusions on representations and figures in other sources… ‘Paraclete’—we may conclude—here has a specific meaning that can hardly be conveyed in one word in our language (and many others) but of which the dominant idea is of someone who offers assistance in a situation in which help is needed.”
(The Gospel of John: A Theological Commentary, p. 503)
The Spirit’s names yield further clues to what he does.

First, he is “another Counselor” (John 14:16). D. A. Carson states what ought to be obvious:
‘Another Paraclete’ in the context of Jesus’ departure implies that the disciples already have one, the one who is departing. (The Gospel According to John: An Introduction and Commentary (Pillar New Testament Commentary), p. 500.)
In Jesus’ absence the Spirit will now be a counselor/helper to Jesus’ disciples. He does many things that Jesus did for his disciples, during his earthly ministry, as seen below:

The Holy Spirit:
Teach, guide into truth (14:26; 16:13)
Testify to the truth/Jesus (15:26)
Convict the world of sin (16:8-11)1
Pray for Jesus’ disciples (Rom. 8:26)
Teach (7:14-19; 13:13)
Testify (8:14)
Convict (15:24)
Pray for Jesus’ disciples (17:9)

Second, he is “the Spirit of truth,” John 14:17 (15:26, 16:13). He guides into the truth (16:13); he makes the revelation of Jesus understandable (16:14-15); and he testifies about Jesus (15:26), who is the truth (14:6).

Third, he is “the Holy Spirit,” John 14:26. Romans 8:5b says:
Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
In v. 11, Paul adds,
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
The Spirit is the agent of conversion, (discussed in John 3 and 4). But here, his giving “life” to the mortal bodies of believers is after conversion (when the Spirit is indwelling), and it refers to the Spirit’s transformation of the believer to become more and more holy… and like Christ. The book, Simple Church, gives an illustration of this from a husband’s perspective on what a wife does:
Continual transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our wives and the Holy Spirit have a lot in common. It is not enough for our wives to move into a home. That is only the beginning. Redecorating is a must. And this is not a one-time redecorating. It keeps going and going. The same is true with the Holy Spirit. Continual work is inevitable. It is never done. It is a lifelong process. (Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples, p. 60.)
Having a holy God live within us ought to give us pause for thought! “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” says Paul (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). In Phil. 2:12b he says we should tremble (not in fear of losing our salvation, but in reverence and awe at the presence of God, working within us.)

So what does all this mean to me? If I am a believer, the Holy Spirit lives within me to help me live as a disciple of Jesus. His help is, in many ways, like that Jesus gave his first disciples, before his departure. It includes protection, encouragement, instruction and confirmation in the full truth revealed by, and in, Jesus Christ. It also includes an on-going spiritual transformation.

There are parts of the Holy Spirit’s work that apply only to the first century apostles, not to us.

First: reminding them of everything Jesus said (i.e. to them during his earthly ministry, not to us!), John 14:26:
But 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.
Second: giving them revelation about the events of (and significance of) Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension that they could not bear before his departure, but which would enable them to testify and write the NT Scriptures (John 16:12-15):
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.
In the promise to guide into all truth, Jesus is not promising believers omniscience (all knowledge)! There is an implied limited context, like when we say, “I’ll explain everything.” We mean we’ll explain everything about a particular situation, not every question known to man. And the “all truth” concept is qualified by the phrase, “more than you can now bear,” referring to the initial misunderstanding of things by the 1st C. apostles. The promise is further defined as, “taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” The “what is mine” is the complete revelation of God (16:15) in Christ, and the “making it known to you” refers to the post-resurrection understanding given to the apostles (as later seen in John 2:22 & 16:12, for instance).

So the promise to guide into all truth applies to the 1st Century apostles, but the indwelling Spirit does something similar for believers thereafter. About holding fast to the truth of the Gospel, Paul says to Timothy (in 2 Timothy 1:14):
Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
With respect to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a third major question arises: “What is it important for us to do?” Well, listen to what Jesus says when he makes his promise:
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of truth… Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me… Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching… He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. "
John 14:15-17, 21a, 23a, 24a
Notice a pattern (in the italicized words)? What is it important for us to do, here? Love and obey Jesus! This is about discipleship—the more we love and obey Jesus, the more we will experience the Spirit living in us. This is also something that is Christ-centered, not Spirit-centered. To experience the truth of this promise, there are no actions directed toward the Spirit, only toward Christ (love and obey him—and “remain” in him, John 15:4). This is not a matter of “unleashing the Spirit,” but of his unleashing us (to live as disciples of Jesus)!

As for the love and obedience, it’s not love and obedience as meriting divine love, but as evidence we belong to Christ and as the means for participating in the love of the Father and Son (John 14:21):
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.
Here’s a fourth major question to consider about today’s topic: “What is the nature of the Spirit’s indwelling?”

Here, again, are the words of Jesus’ promise.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--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.
The “know him… he lives with you” was already true for the apostles, at that time. Perhaps they had known the Spirit in Jesus himself (John 1:33; 3:34). But the “will be in you” part will occur after Jesus’ glorification. Other things Jesus says explain what this means.

First, the “living in” language does not refer to something physical or spatial, but to an extreme closeness of relationship. The same language is used of the unimaginably close relationship between the Father and the Son (John 14:10-11a):
Don'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. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.
Therefore, the Spirit will be so close to believers that the relationship will (in some sense) be like that of the Father and the Son! The “living in” language is used again, of the unity between the Father and the Son that Jesus prays for believers to have, too (in John 17:20b-21a):
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us.”
Therefore: believers will also experience something of this closeness in their relationship with each other and with the Father and the Son.

Second, the Spirit’s indwelling is not exclusive. Jesus promises that he and the Father will live within the believer too (John 17:20b-21a, 26)!:
Jesus 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… I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Feeling overwhelmed by “these surpassingly great revelations” (to use a phrase of the apostle Paul’s)? Then let’s simplify. There’s a really big, personal truth in all this. Maybe it should really be the title of this whole study: not just, “The Holy Spirit indwells,” but the personal truth that arises from it, “You are not alone!”

As the only believer in your class, or in your workplace, or in your family… you are not alone! As a struggling disciple or a weak disciple, you are not alone! As a fearful witness… as a pastor who feels like you’re “beating your head against the wall”… as a young person who wants to live for Christ, but (at times) it’s oh so hard or so confusing… you are not alone! You are not… alone. And to all who are in such a condition, in some way, I say,

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
2 Corinthians 13:14

1 The Spirit’s ministry is not directly to the disciples in this case, but it still aids them by enabling their testimony to be effective.

Rev. Ken Burdick is the pastor of the Seattle Area Seventh Day Baptist Church.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.