The Perfect Counselor
Please read John 16:5-15 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
An ad came to me by email this week for a “baseball power bracelet.” I noticed that part of the bracelet had a cross on it. That got me curious, so I went to the website to find out what was going on. Here’s how the bracelet is described at BL101.com: “The Baseball Power Bracelet is perfect for any baseball lover. All but two of the beads are made to resemble a baseball, while the one bead features a cross on each side. The bracelets are an external reminder of the ‘power’ we gain by including faith in our lives. These reminders help us focus and remember our faith in times of fear, stress, or crisis which gives the wearer a certain power over these feelings. These tough and durable silicone bracelets will not stretch out or break during play.”
The Baseball Power Bracelet comes in six colors, two of which are sold out, so apparently somebody’s buying these things. I’m not offended someone put a cross on their merchandise. I am offended that they would imply that the presence of a cross is a means to access God’s power, especially for something as trivial as a baseball game.
Theologically, this merch crosses (pun intended) a line. God’s power comes to believers by way of the Holy Spirit and by Him alone. This ad edges into superstition which is, I’m told, a common problem among baseball players and sailors, oddly enough.
CONTEXT: At the Last Supper, Jesus prepared His disciples for His “departure.” One preparation was to promise the Spirit’s help. In this passage Jesus referred to His Ascension, not His death (5-7). This is indicated in three statements Jesus made:
#1 = I AM GOING AWAY TO THE ONE WHO SENT ME (5) is clearly a reference to Jesus’ return to heaven as reported in Mark 16:19; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:1-11.
#2 = IF I DO GO AWAY, THEN I WILL SEND [the ADVOCATE] TO YOU (7) puts two events in their chronological order. It was at the Ascension that Jesus “went away;” He left earth to return to heaven. Sometime later, the Day of Pentecost arrived, and it was then that the Holy Spirit was given to the Church. Jesus’ statement makes sense only if we understand it happened in this sequence.
#3 = I GO TO THE FATHER (10) looks at Jesus going to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father on His throne.
On a personal level, Jesus was disappointed at the disciples’ reaction to this news that He was leaving them (6). He’d already announced this twice: 14:16-17, 26 and 15:26. The disciples were more concerned about what would happen to them after He left than they were about where He was going. Jesus graciously forgave their selfishness and spoke these words to comfort them that they would continue to receive His guidance in the person of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, Jesus’ leaving was in their best interests: when He left, Jesus would be able to send the ADVOCATE to take His place (7). The word translated as ADVOCATE in NLT Bible can be translated in a number of different ways, which implies the varied roles the Spirit plays in the lives of believers.
The Holy Spirit is everyone’s Advocate.
1. The Holy Spirit works on unbelievers.
The Holy Spirit’s work in the world (among unbelievers) is conviction of guilt to lead them to salvation (8-11). WHEN HE COMES (8) indicates this is one of two sections of particular interest to us. Upon His coming, the Spirit would do three things targeted toward unbelievers.
The first is to CONVICT THE WORLD OF ITS SIN. CONVICT is a legal term; it meant to pronounce sentence. This is a stronger word than accuse. In this case, the issue of guilt has been settled already; only the pronouncing of punishment remains.
This relates to sin and reminds us that salvation cannot come to a person who has not repented of their sin.
Sin has deadly consequences of sin and our desperate need for a Savior.
Verse nine draws out the only sin which cannot be forgiven: unbelief. It is unforgiveable in the sense that the unbeliever rejects ownership of their sin or belief in God or both. He does not therefore have faith to ask God’s forgiveness and without asking, is not forgiven. He is still dead in his sins.
The second work of the Spirit in regard to unbelievers is to display GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS, which becomes AVAILABLE because Jesus has gone TO THE FATHER (10).
God is the standard for righteousness; He said, “Be holy, even as I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15). This is the RIGHTEOUSNESS the Spirit displays. This standard cannot be achieved by any human means, so the Bible warns us that all of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 6:23). Our only hope is to cry out to God to forgive us, to call on the covering of the shed blood of Jesus, our only means of forgiveness and salvation (1 John 1:7).
When we are forgiven, God utterly forgets our sin and cleanses us (1 John 1:9-10). This imputes to us a perfection like His own that we must protect against sin.
This process of repentance and forgiveness must follow on the heels of every sin for us to become more like Jesus. This is not just a single-time act that begins our salvation, it is a life-long discipline.
The third work of the Spirit in regard to unbelievers is to warn them about the COMING JUDGMENT. Satan, THE RULER OF THIS WORLD, HAS ALREADY BEEN JUDGED guilty by God (11). Satan is already condemned; all those who associate with him are also condemned by means of their association with him. In His JUDGMENT, God condemns all things not in keeping with His commands, not in accord with His perfect and holy character, everything done out of evil instead of love.
2. The Holy Spirit works for believers.
The Holy Spirit’s work in believers is to GUIDE them into ALL TRUTH (13-15). We know we’re in the second section of this passage because Jesus virtually repeated the heading in v. 8 (WHEN HE COMES), saying WHEN THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH COMES in v. 13. Jesus described how the Holy Spirit would bring this guidance in three ways:
First, HE WILL NOT SPEAK ON HIS OWN BUT WILL TELL YOU WHAT HE HAS HEARD (13). This is precisely what Jesus said about His own preaching in 8:42. The Spirit would continue Jesus’ teaching; He would elaborate on Jesus’ teaching. There would be nothing contradictory in the Spirit’s revelation as both God the Son and God the Holy Spirit spoke only the words they received from God the Father.
Second, HE WILL TELL YOU ABOUT THE FUTURE (13), a subject Jesus touched on in 15:18-16:4. Because we can only see the present moment, the future is unknown territory. We need a guide: the Holy Spirit is our guide.
Third, HE WILL BRING ME GLORY BY TELLING YOU WHATEVER HE RECEIVES FROM ME (14). The Spirit will glorify Jesus by making Him known on the earth after He has departed it from heaven. The Holy Spirit will clarify and expand upon Jesus’ teachings; the two will be perfectly consistent with one another and with the Father’s will (15).
The Holy Spirit is everyone’s Advocate.
The declared purpose of the Spirit’s coming is to GUIDE Jesus’ followers INTO ALL TRUTH. This would include the things Jesus didn’t mention in v. 12. (Jesus had more to say, but the disciples weren’t ready to BEAR it.) They were too immature in their faith and time was too short to wait for them to mature.
What could it have been that Jesus wanted to tell them? It might have been a more detailed warning about what would happen to Jesus and them after this Last Supper ended. It could have been more information about the end times, the subject of the previous section. Regardless of what Jesus had in mind, His purpose was to keep it to Himself to avoid giving the disciples more information than they could handle.
True story: “A park ranger at Yellowstone National Park was leading a group of hikers to a fire lookout. The ranger was so intent on telling the hikers about the flowers and animals that he considered the messages on his two-way radio distracting. He switched it off. As the group neared the tower, the ranger was met by a nearly breathless lookout, who asked why he hadn’t responded to the messages on his radio. A grizzly bear had been seen stalking the group, and the authorities were trying to warn them of the danger.” (Ministry127.com)
If we get so distracted by the things of this life that we tune out the Holy Spirit, we put ourselves in danger. As we have seen, the Holy Spirit is our Advocate, our Comforter, our Encourager, our Counselor. Which of those things do you think you can do for yourself? We need the Holy Spirit to be all those things for us.
To enable the Holy Spirit’s guidance in our lives, we must daily do two things: first, slow your roll. When we rely on ourselves, we tend to rush into things, speak too soon, and make snap judgments. We need to wait for the Spirit’s guidance. Second, we need to pray first and listen for God’s reply. Decisions should be made after prayer, not before.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, John, Merrill C. Tenney