A Presence Which Strengthens

Surely they must have misheard him? ‘Expedient for you that I go away’. How could that be? Surely He said ‘Expedient for Me’. That would be intelligible. It might be well for Him to exchange that life of toil and suffering for the life of glory. It might be well for Him that He should return to that home of peace and light which in His love for men He voluntarily left. But how could it be expedient for those He was leaving? If His visible presence, His teaching, His companionship had been an incalculable blessing to them, how could the withdrawal of the blessing be expedient? So they might have reasoned.

We, too, may sometimes look back and think that there was never any privilege like theirs. They had walked with Him in the corn fields and sat with Him on the boat on the lake; they had supped with Him among His friends. What greater privilege could there ever be? Yes, it was a supreme privilege, but what became of the faith which relied upon the Lord as an external Presence to whom they could turn at any moment of doubt or need? When the crisis came it all went to pieces. ‘They all forsook him and fled’. Yet a few weeks later all was changed, as the events of the early chapters of the Acts tell us, cf. 5. 41. The answer is found in an indwelling Spirit and a risen Lord.

The word ‘expedient’ is the same word as Caiaphas used, ‘It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people’, cf. John 11. 50. The policy of politics, says Caiaphas, was that He should die. The right line of God’s purpose was that He should go. Overruling all is the divine government, the divine authority.

The coming of the Holy Spirit was connected with and dependent upon the ascension of the Lord, cf. John 7. 39; 16. 7. In this sense His going away was going to be an advantage to them. Read John 14. 2, 12, 20, 28. As long as they saw Him in the body they would not understand that their relation to Him must be of a spiritual character. During His ministry the Lord was to His disciples an outward presence only, a form which they saw, a voice to which they listened. But at Pentecost He became, by the Spirit, an inward presence, a fire, a force, new feeling, new resolve, new life. The outward visible loss was immense when the soil of earth was no longer trodden by the blessed feet of the Redeemer, but the inward and spiritual gain was so great as to outweigh it. The presence of Christ in the hearts, minds and wills of the apostles meant illumination, impulse, power of a kind and on a scale not imagined before, so they would learn deeper than before, 16. 12, 13. Their privileges would be higher than before; they would be placed in living union with Him and enjoy all the sublime blessings in Christ. The Lord would be more truly present with them than before, 14. 18. He would be present wherever His people met. Their works would be greater, 14. 12.

Let us now consider The expediency’ in three main areas:

1. Union, 14. 16, 17

It is the Spirit of God by whom union in the Body of Christ is effected, 1 Cor. 12. 13. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His, Rom. 8. 9. That union is further referred to here in the phrases, ‘He may abide with you for ever’, v. 16, and ‘He dwelleth with you and shall be in you’, v. 17. Here is a major difference between the experience of God’s servants in the Old Testament where the Spirit of God came ‘upon’ men, and then temporarily for the achievement of some purpose, e.g. Judges 3. 10; 6. 34; 11. 29; 14. 19, and God’s children in the present in whom the Spirit is an abiding Presence. ‘With you … in you’ - what a power for every experience in life!

Who is this One who has come to indwell? Titles are used of Him by the Lord in the upper room which express much of His Person and work. One of these is the name ‘Comforter’. The word means someone who is called in to give witness in one’s favour in a law court; to plead someone’s cause; an advocate; to give advice in some difficult situation; an expert; someone who puts new spirit and courage into those who are depressed; one who helps when another is in distress or doubt. The basic idea is of one called alongside; one who constantly stands by your side as your helper, counsellor, comforter, friend. Calling someone alongside is always for the purpose of receiving help and thus one who responds to the call is one who is committed to giving assistance. One point to notice here is that the word is used of persons. It could not be used simply of an influence or of a power flowing from God. Its use marks the Holy Spirit as a Person.

The Lord here calls Him ‘another Comforter’. The word is translated ‘advocate’ in 1 John 2. 1, where it says ‘We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’. Thus we have one Advocate or Comforter indwelling us, and one Advocate or Comforter in the Father’s presence. By the word ‘another’ the Lord indicates a distinction of persons. By the word paraclete or ‘Comforter’ He indicates an equality of dignity. The phrase ‘another comforter’ indicates that the Spirit is a different Person from the Son, while the word ‘Comforter’ indicates similarity of nature.

There are two words in the Greek New Testament for ‘other’:

  1. allos, which means another of the same kind.
  2. heteros, which means another of a different kind.

The word used in John 14. 16 for ‘another’ is allos, that is the Spirit is thought of as another, like Jesus, ‘the ample consolation for the absence of the familiar company of the beloved Saviour’, as Handley Moule expressed it. What follows is this, that if Jesus is a Person, so, too, must the Holy Spirit who takes His place. Thus we discover that personal attributes are everywhere attributed to the Holy Spirit. He teaches, 14. 26; He dwells, 14. 17; He brings to remembrance, 14. 26; He testifies, 15. 26, 27; He is sent, 14. 26; 15. 26; He guides, 16. 13; He speaks, 16. 13; He hears, 16. 13; He shows things to come, 16. 13; He glorifies Christ, 16. 14. Personal pronouns are used of the Spirit by the Lord Jesus, ‘He’, ‘Him’. So, too, He must be a divine Person. Surely only One who is divine could bear the titles ‘Holy Spirit’ and ‘Spirit of Truth’? The tasks^ given Him to achieve also bear this out, e.g. ‘to teach all things’, 14. 26; ‘to bring all things to remembrance’, 14. 26; ‘to reprove the world’, 16. 8. The phrase ‘another Comforter’ shows that the Holy Spirit does the same work in the believer as the Lord Jesus does in heaven for the believer. The Lord Jesus intercedes, so does the Spirit, cf. Rom. 8. 26.

We ought to observe the reference to the three Persons of the trinity in chapter 14, verse 16. We should not fail to notice the oneness and equality with the Father. Here the Father gives the Holy Spirit and in verse 26 He sends Him. However, in chapter 16 verse 7, and in chapter 15 verse 26, the Lord Jesus is the Sender. The Father acts in and through the Son, and the Son acts as in the Father, and the Spirit acts in perfect unison of being and action with the Father and the Son.

2. Instruction, 14. 26

As we have already seen, here the Father is seen as the Sender of the Holy Spirit, a function which also belongs to the Son as in 15. 26. The relationships are described as follows: Christ is God by an eternal filiation; the Holy Spirit is God by an eternal procession from Father and Son. Notice that as Christ came in His Father’s Name, so the Spirit is sent in the Son’s Name. Christ came to reveal the Father; the Holy Spirit has come to reveal Christ.

The promise of the Lord Jesus in this particular verse, 14. 26, has especially to do with that group of men gathered in that upper room. They were to teach with apostolic authority, so it was necessary that the Spirit of God should ‘teach them all things’. It is the remainder of the verse which indicates its special applicability to them. The Spirit would bring to their remembrance, said the Lord Jesus, ‘whatsoever I have said unto you’. So their oral teaching would be with authority as they recounted with the help of the Spirit the truth the Lord had taught them. Where it bore fruit in writing, as in two of the gospels, they would be inspired of the Holy Spirit, just as in the past He had ‘moved holy men of God’ to write, 2 Pet. 1. 21.

3. Illumination, 15. 26, 27; 16. 12-15

The truth which the Spirit would reveal went beyond that which the disciples had already grasped. What teaching can be given depends upon the student’s capacity to receive. It is no true loyalty to the mind of the Lord which confines attention to what He said and did on earth. Then He kept His teaching within the range of His disciples’ apprehension. Even so they could not grasp all His meaning. We are most loyal to the mind of Christ when we are most receptive of all that the apostles, under the guidance of the Spirit, taught.

Note the title of the Spirit here - ‘the Spirit of Truth’, 15. 26; 16. 13. Truth is His nature and that is the guarantee of the character of what the Spirit teaches. It indicates that it is His distinctive work to communicate and impart truth to us. All truth is from Him. He is the medium of God’s communication of truth both in inspiration and illumination. The world, the natural order apart from God, pays no attention to the Spirit, and when it sees Him at work cannot recognize what is happening. It must first have the eyes of the mind opened by the touch of Christ, for the very condition of the world renders impossible any recognition of Him, cf. 1 Cor. 2. 14.

The definite work of the Spirit will be the glorification of Christ in the hearts of His own, 16. 14. The Son labours only to glorify the Father, and the Spirit desires only to glorify the Son. To make Christ known is to glorify Him. Just as the Son glorified the Father by revealing Him, 1. 18, so does the Spirit glorify the Son by revealing Him, 16. 14. In both cases ‘to reveal’ is necessarily ‘to glorify’.

This article has the heading ‘A presence which strengthens’. The comforting and strengthening office of the divine Spirit is seen in His work as Teacher. We need to learn that the best strength that God can give us by His Spirit is by our sure grasp of, and growing clarity of understanding of the truths which are wrapped up in Jesus Christ. When the Spirit teaches us what God reveals in Christ He therein and thereby most fully discharges His office of Strengthener. To the end of the day the Christian must be a learner, for the Holy Spirit will constantly be leading him deeper and deeper into the truth of God. There is never any time in life when the Christian can say that he knows all truth. In this sense he has never fully ‘arrived’. If we feel that we have nothing more to learn, we have never really begun to understand what the doctrine of the Spirit is about.

Side by side with this there is the thought of purity built upon consecration - He is ‘the Holy Spirit’. That suggests there is an indissoluble union between the real knowledge of God’s truth and practical holiness of life. There is no real knowledge of Christ and His truth without purity of heart.

The Spirit’s presence and strengthening would be necessary for these disciples in their witness, and this is implied in the two last verses of chapter 15. The Spirit would bear witness to Christ, but so, too, would the disciples. The elaboration of this is given in Acts 1. 8, and their witness is once more coupled with the coming of the Holy Spirit. They were co-witnesses with the Spirit - that is the calling of Christian disciples, and that is our calling.


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