Promise of the
Holy Ghost – Part III
In John 14:17, Jesus describes the
promise of the Spirit as having a significant implication all its own. He says,
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth
Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and
shall be in you.” This describes another facet of the ministry of the Holy
Spirit, and gives us a definition of His divine character.
We read a few verses before in John
14:6, where Jesus had told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the
life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” Now He is telling them
specifically how the Spirit is “another of the exact same kind” by referring to
Him as the “Spirit of truth.” We find that the Holy Ghost is literally the
“Spirit of truth.” Why? Because He is marked by the truth, He gives it to
us, and it’s the Holy Ghost who defends the truth.
The Holy Ghost is marked by truth because of His divine nature. He IS God the
Holy Spirit, and He has all the attributes of deity; and like Jesus says about
Himself in John 14:6. He too is TRUTH. He doesn’t have the capacity to lie and
is therefore absolutely trustworthy in all that He says and does. And in this
truthfulness of the Spirit, we as God’s elect often desire to be in step with
the Spirit and we long to be people of integrity. We can never hope to be under
His influence if we are consciously distorting the truth in a misguided effort
to protect ourselves or someone else. This doesn’t mean that those who are not
walking in the TRUTH are not children of God, but that they do not obey or
follow after the TRUTH.
The Spirit gives truth in the sense of
divine inspiration. In 2 Pet. 1:21, we read that “For the prophecy came not
in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by
the Holy Ghost.” It’s the Holy Ghost who is the dispenser of all biblical
truth. The Word of God is reliable because it came to us under the guidance of
the “Spirit of truth.” When we ask the Son to reveal Himself to us, it’s the
Holy Ghost who does this work because The Son is ONE with the Holy Ghost. And
when we ask the Father likewise to reveal Himself to us it is ALWAYS done
through the Holy Ghost, because the Father is One with the Holy Ghost! He is the
Spirit of all divine revelation.
The Spirit defends the truth by
empowering the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, by His called out
ministers who proclaim the truth and stand up and answer the arguments of the
world against it. In the ministry of proclamation, the Word of God is not only
announced but also exonerated!
The Holy Spirit of TRUTH stands in stark contrast to our spiritual enemy, Satan.
Who is merely a created, fallen being, and as well as the father of lies (John
8:44). Satan who is unable to take away even one of God’s elect one’s whom Jesus
died for, and whom the Holy Ghost has given new life in the new birth, is now in
the business of deception and subtle trickery (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:3,14) in an
attempt to steal our joy, hope and peace in Christ.
The Holy Ghost deals only in the truth. He came into the world of God’s people
to expose the truth to the world of the lost sheep of God by convicting them of
their sin and of righteousness and judgment (John 10:28, 16:8).
What a great comfort that we understand that Jesus didn’t send an inferior to
simply stand in or substitute for Him. No, our Saviour sent in His place a
Co-equal member of the Godhead. One who is perfectly able to represent Christ
and the Father in the lives of God’s little beloved children. There can be no
question about the divine nature of the Holy Spirit, and there can be no
question about His perfect character. He is our Comforter, another of the exact
same kind as Jesus, who gives and substantiates the truth.
Jesus has sent us the promise of the Spirit, One who abides with us
consistently, allowing us to live dependently on Him with great assurance and
confidence. He said, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you
another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever.” By this statement,
Jesus assures us of a New Covenant relationship to the Holy Spirit. This
relationship was both alike and yet different from the way the Holy Spirit had
related to the people of God in earlier times.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit
did not simply set idle, but was active in a variety of ways. He was active in
creation (Gen. 1:2; Job 33:4), in conviction (Gen. 6:3), in confirmation of the
Word of God (2 Chron. 24:20), and in caring for the people of God (Psa. 51:12).
God the Holy Ghost is the One who is given primary emphasis in the Old Testament
era, accomplishing all of this. He was involved in His people Israel for acts of
divine service, which He does even today.
In the Old Testament, as it is today,
any good or honorable act had to be energized by the Spirit and grace of God.
Man, in his fallen nature, has always been unable to do anything that would
please God. But it is also true that in the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came
upon the Lord's people as they needed Him or as He sovereignly chose to use them
as He did with Samson.
Throughout Old Testament history, the
Spirit would come upon people for seasons of ministry and empower them for acts
of skill, strength, or insight. The Spirit of God was described as coming upon
them (see the messengers of Saul in 1 Sam. 19:20 and Gideon in Judges 6:34), and
then would depart (see the 70 elders of Israel in Num. 11:25).
Sometimes we would see the Spirit's
departure because of sin among His people. As when David mourned the sin he had
committed with Bathsheba, he prayed, “Cast me not away from thy presence; and
take not thy Holy Spirit from me,” Psa. 51:11. David's fear seems to have
been that the Holy Spirit might leave him because of his sin.
We read that sometimes the Spirit was
said to depart because the task for which someone had been empowered was
accomplished (Num. 11:25). This was apparently the case with several of the
Minor Prophets, who were boldly empowered by the Spirit for very brief prophetic
ministries and then went back to whatever their life had been previously. It
most certainly was the case with Amos, a shepherd from Tekoa until he was called
to speak prophetic words from God (read book of Amos).
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is
described differently in the Old Testament than it is in the New Testament. This
is the reason Christ’s disciples, who knew only that of the Old Testament era,
would see the Lord’s declaration of a permanent abiding of the Spirit as a great
contrast to what they had previously understood.
The promise of Jesus was a permanent
presence of the Holy Ghost in John 14:16. This would be in direct contrast to
their mere three-year physical relationship with Christ Himself. Jesus did not
come to dwell permanently on earth in a physical body. He came to accomplish the
plan of the covenant of redemption and then return to the Father’s presence. The
Spirit’s coming would be very different from His ministry in the Old Testament
and different from Christ's ministry in the Gospels, for His coming to indwell
believers was promised to be eternal in nature.
Jesus went on to say, “Even the
Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not,
neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in
you,” John 14:17. This is an enormous statement to the true believer,
because it sets us in direct contrast to the non-elect and unredeemed world. In
1 Cor 2:12-16, we find the contrast of the natural man with the spiritual man: “Now
we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God;
that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things
also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy
Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto
him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he
that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For
who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the
mind of Christ.” The natural, or unregenerate man cannot receive anything
that has to do with the Spirit, while we on the other hand have the mind of
What could be more clear? The Children
of God are different from the natural man. We have the presence of the Spirit of
God in our lives, and the natural man does not. We are enabled by the Spirit to
know the things given to us by God (v.12), to understand spiritual things
(v.13), to have spiritual discernment (v.15), and to have the mind of Christ
(v.16). These rich blessings are not given to everyone who is born in the flesh,
but only to those who are born of the Spirit.
“The natural man receiveth not the
things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he
know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The key to understanding
this passage is to see that the natural man cannot understand anything that has
to do with the Spirit of Christ because he is not of the same spirit. He has
only his natural carnal mind (Rom 8:6- 8).
The natural man can study the Bible as
only mere literature, but he can never see the wonder of God in Christ. He can
hear with the natural ear good principles, but he cannot apply them in a
spiritual love and faith of Christ. Why? Because he does not have the Spirit of
God! Jesus said that the world cannot receive the Spirit. What the Spirit of God
produces is undeniably revealed in the contrast with what the spirit of man
(i.e. the world) produces. This is the difference between the wisdom that is
from above and the wisdom that is of this world. James 3:13-18 delivers the
contrast in clear-cut terms:
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a
good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter
envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For
where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the
wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be
entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without
hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make
Although James does not explicitly mention the Holy Spirit, it’s obvious from 1
Corinthians chapters 2 and 3 (as well as Acts 6:3, 10 and Eph.1: 17) that
spiritual wisdom; that which James calls “wisdom from above,” is imparted by the
Holy Spirit and is very different from the wisdom displayed by the natural man,
who does not receive the Spirit.
Jesus says, “He dwelleth with you,
and shall be in you” (John 14:17). This is the final declaration of the
significant way the Spirit's presence is displayed in our lives. It’s not only a
matter of an eternal presence, or even a presence that displays itself in true
spiritual wisdom. The reality of it is that the Spirit of the Living God has His
personal residence in the lives of believers.
We will stop here and continue in our
next issue. May God bless you and keep you.
Elder Thomas McDonald