(John 15:26 ESV) 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”
Why is the Spirit the Spirit of truth? Because the Spirit testifies about Jesus — the truth. The Spirit’s purpose in God’s mission is to point toward Jesus.
There are those who teach a doctrine of the Spirit that centers theology of the Spirit on the gifts he gives. But that’s bad theology. The Spirit is not about bringing glory and recognition to the Spirit — only to Jesus.
The Spirit somehow “bears witness” about Jesus. The Spirit testifies. How?
Of course, the Spirit’s testimony includes the scriptures. That’s the point of inspiration. But it also includes —
(Rom 8:16-17 ESV) 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The Spirit’s transformation of the hearts of Christians bears witness to the reality of Jesus. (Just so, our refusal to let our hearts be changed by the Spirit denies Christ.)
(John 15:27 ESV) 27 “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
Of course, the disciples present with Jesus could testify about Jesus because they’d been present throughout his earthly ministry. They saw and heard the truth themselves. They were witnesses in the most literal sense of the word.
But can we be “witnesses” today? It’s been often argued in Church of Christ circles that we can’t be witnesses because Jesus is no longer present on earth and so we can only tell others what we’ve been told about Jesus — what the scriptures say. Is that true?
Well, if Jesus is really with us unto the end of the age, if Jesus truly answers prayers, if Jesus is alive and active through his church, then of course we can testify to what we’ve seen and heard! If we’ve not seen Jesus at work, we might just have a faith problem.
(John 16:1-2 ESV) “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
Jesus speaks prophetically but based on what he’s already seen. The man born blind was cast out his synagogue because he credited Jesus with the healing. Surely, things would only get worse!
In fact, while Paul would hardly be the only example, he was a committed Jewish rabbi who thought he served God by persecuting Christians, even acquiescing in the death of Stephen. Jesus’ words were just as true as true can be.
Why say such dire things? To warn the disciples so that they would not be surprised. The persecution should not threaten their faith — it’s the necessary result of faith in a faithless world. Persecution should confirm their faith.
(John 16:3-4a ESV) 3 “And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”
But the persecutors, even though they act in God’s name and even though they are deeply religious people, don’t know Jesus and don’t know God. Their persecution of Jesus’ disciples will amply prove that.
(John 16:4b ESV) “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”
Jesus didn’t need to warn them so long as he was present with them. The persecution would be aimed at Jesus himself, not his disciples. But with Jesus’ departure, the disciples would quickly be victimized by the same powers that were about to arrest and kill Jesus.
(John 16:5-6 ESV) 5 “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”
Very gently, Jesus teases his disciples. He’s been talking about leaving, and yet the disciples have been too scared of the answer to even ask where he would go. They were terrified of Jesus’ leaving. They were already in mourning and, to a degree, already in denial, refusing to deal with the circumstances. Of course, Jesus’ bringing up persecution only made the entire discourse that much more difficult. It’s a necessary topic, but a tough one for the disciples to absorb.
(John 16:7 ESV) 7 “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
Jesus explains that he must leave so that the Spirit can come.
I have to admit, it’s not altogether clear to me why that is. After all, the Spirit was already present on earth. Why must Jesus leave before the Spirit could be outpoured?
Perhaps it’s simply that the Spirit would be outpoured at the foundation of the Kingdom, and the Kingdom could not begin until Jesus became enthroned in heaven. I think that actually fits the Old Testament prophecies well.
(John 16:8-11 ESV) 8 “And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:
9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;
10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;
11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
This is a challenging outline. The Greek word translated “convict” can mean to persuade, as in to convict a sinner to repent. But it can also mean to find guilty, as in convicting the accused of a crime.
Since v. 9 says they won’t believe, they are surely not convicted in the first sense. Hence, we have to take “convict” to mean “find guilty.”
Thus, verse 9 would seem to mean that the world’s refusal to believe demonstrates their sinful state — a state that is rebellious to the point of refusing to repent and to believe. It’s not just sin, but unforgiven sin.
Verse 10 brings in “righteousness,” one of Paul’s favorite words but one rarely used by John. However, as N. T. Wright has shown, “righteousness” refers to covenant faithfulness. Thus, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension prove God’s righteousness because the resurrection proves that God will resurrect those with faith.
Moreover, Jesus had just said that he had to leave so that Spirit could come. The outpouring of the Spirit had been repeatedly prophesied as a sign of the coming of the Kingdom. Thus, for the Spirit to be outpoured would prove God’s righteousness.
And, of course, the way the Jews respond to these events would demonstrate either their righteousness or lack of righteousness. The truly faithful Jew would see the Spirit outpoured and Jesus raised and recognize that the Kingdom had come. The truly faithful Jew would plead to be allowed into the Kingdom! Faith would not be hard.
But for the unrighteous Jew, even God’s mighty deeds, his miracles, and his Spirit would not shake them out of their stubbornness.
Finally, in v. 11, Jesus declares that Satan himself would be judged — condemned — by the resurrection. Satan would have dealt Jesus the most severe blow he could dish out. He would use the combined powers of Rome and the Jewish authorities — the Sanhedrin, the priests, the Pharisees — to destroy Jesus, only to be defeated by the very weapons he used against God.
Jesus is being quite serious about his defeat of the Powers, as we’ve considered earlier. Jesus ascension after his resurrection is not just about defeating death. It’s also about defeating every power on earth that opposes God — including the false gods of the pagans, the power of Rome, the power of religious authority, the power of the military, the power of nationalism, the power of racial pride … all those things were defeated by an empty tomb.