John 15:26-27 The Spirit Of Truth

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  The Book Of Acts gives us witness of the event that took place about two thousand years ago at Pentecost (The Feast Of The Fiftieth Day) as follows.1   "When the day of Pentecost came, as a group [of people] were all one and assembled together, all of a sudden, a sound as if a severe wind was blowing in was audible from heaven and it resounded in the house where they were sitting.  Then tongues like flames appeared individually and stood on each one.  Whereupon, the group was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in words from other nations as "the Spirit" made them speak," (Acts 2:1-4).  That's how the history of the church's mission began.  Today we have gathered here in order to worship together and to remember that event.

2.  Thus, the birth of the church is depicted as a very marvelous event.  Yet, the most important point is not that the event itself was so marvelous.  The really important point is not that the history of the work of the church had begun on mere human determination and effort, but the fact that it had inaugurated as a work of God by the Spirit of God.

3.  This also has to do with the fact that there is a church in this country today and that we are included in that Church.  It did not come about by mere human determination and effort.  It came from God.  The existence right now of any Christian as a Christian is not based on merely the person's own decision and will.  It comes from God.  The way we are right now is not just because of our own wills, but is the doings of God and it is a miracle that comes from the Spirit of God.  That's right, the people we see right here and now are not any kind of special human beings.  The people whose lives are here in this place are really a group of sinners loaded up with things wrong with them.  Even as we look at the very history of the church, we will find in it some really awful shameful things and mistakes committed by its people.  But, even with all that, when we celebrate the day of the Festival Of Pentecost we are reminded that the church is not a mere human organization which human will runs and controls, but in it there is a divine dimension and the work of the Spirit of God.

4.  So then, it is John chapter fifteen and verses twenty-six and seven that we are given at this year's Pentecost worship service.  It reads like this, "When the advocate comes, whom I will send to you from my Father, that is, the Spirit of truth which comes from my Father, [when it2 comes], you can expect him to bear witness to me.  You, too, will bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning."  Today, let's put our minds on the two titles that the Lord Jesus used.  One title is "the advocate" and the other is "the Spirit of truth."  As we ponder these words, we will want to carefully consider the significance of what the Holy Spirit is giving us.

The Holy Spirit As The Advocate

5.  First, the Holy Spirit is called in this text "the advocate."  This is translated in the Japanese Bible Society Version as "helper."3  Besides that, there are Bibles that render it as "comforter."4  It's really a word that is rich in meaning, that can't be translated by any one word.  It was originally the [masculine Greek] word "paraklhtoV, parakletos."  If translated literally, it is a word with the meaning of "one who is called to your side."  Thus, when it is used in a court room setting, it is an advocate or lawyer.  But, even though it can be translated as "advocate," we don't need to imagine it being like the contemporary occupation of a lawyer.  It doesn't mean that he was a lawyer with the qualifications like we have today.  When a person was your advocate, in short, it was someone who was your ally, your friend.  It is someone who stands by your side.  It was in most cases a close friend of some kind.  What it means here is that the Lord Jesus will send us Someone who is like that.

6.  In regards to that One, the Lord said the following in a different passage, "I will ask the Father.  The Father will send another advocate and let him be with you for ever," (14:16).  The phrase of "another advocate" presupposes that there already is in existence a first advocate.  That first advocate is none other than the Lord Jesus himself.  For the disciples the Lord Jesus really was a helper and a comforter, and One who always stood by their sides as a friend.  But, the Lord Jesus could not be with his disciples for ever if he were in an existence on this earth that took on flesh.  Fellowship with the Lord Jesus was under time and space limitations.  But, the Holy Spirit as "another advocate" sent from the Father would not be under such a restriction.  The Holy Spirit is truly indeed the One we could say will "be with you forever." And we might say that such an advocate like that being sent and being with them is equal to the Lord Jesus' being with them for ever, who was the advocate and the helper for the first disciples.  Thus, the Lord also said to his disciples, "I will not leave you orphans.  I will return to you," (14:18).  The Holy Spirit is none other than the Spirit of Christ.

7.  First of all, we want to rejoice together that in this Pentecost worship service we are with the same advocate and are made alive in fellowship with Christ in the same such form.  A christian is not someone who just has faith in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and tries to live by following his example.  A christian is a person who lives with the Holy Spirit, the advocate who the Lord sent from the Father and who lives in fellowship with the Christ who is alive even now through Him [i.e. the Spirit].

8.  But, in regards to this advocate being sent and being with us for ever, we should not take it as merely the experiences within the individual minds of believers.  The translation "helper" or "comforter" seem somehow to easily invite such a misunderstanding.  Jesus never intended that all we think of him is as someone who helps us when we get into some kind of trouble, or who comforts us when we are lonely or when we are sad.  We see that right away when we give some consideration to the context in which the words we read today are given.  It is "a warning of persecution," which is recorded beginning with verse eighteen.

9.  As long as faith stays in the experiences within individual hearts, persecution is not a problem.  Persecution becomes a problem when we would live as christians, as disciples of Christ in visible form.  We can avoid all kinds of persecution by answering "no" if accused with "Are you part of the company of Christ's disciples?"  Thus, persecution becomes a problem when a person lives along with the church and would live as christians in visible form to the eye in witness of the gospel to the world.

10.  Thus, this phrase, in which the Lord said "I am sending an advocate," is said presupposing a setting in which living as a christian joined to the church was in no way easy, when a christian living as a christian had a hard time.  Of course, what brought on the hard times was not always only the obstacles from the persecutions like the early church had experienced.  The primary factor which hinders the faith life is, among other factors as well, [when a christian is] filled up with this world.  Because this ol' world does not follow after Christ; instead, it opposes Christ.

11.  But, it is because we live in that kind of world that the fact that a comforter is sent has great meaning.  To experience the Holy Spirit as advocate, helper, and comforter means, above all, nothing but the experience of being preserved as a christian in this world and being preserved as a person who confesses the faith along with the church and bears witness to the gospel.  It is in no way a type of individual mystical experience divorced from the every day life of the church.

The Holy Spirit As the Spirit Of Truth

12.  Well, let's move on to the next [title].  Secondly, the Holy Spirit is called "the Spirit of truth."  When the Bible mentions "truth," it is not an abstract idea that is obtainable by learning.  At the scene of the last supper, the Lord Jesus stated the following to his disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and life.  Unless he or she goes through me, no one can go to the Father," (14:6).  Thus, the Bible says that Christ indeed is the very truth. That [means] the One who is the way for us to God the Father.  In knowing Him a person knows the truth.  In having fellowship with Him one takes part in the truth.

13.  In the case of intelligent communication [of truth], it may be achievable by just human words and by written letters.  But, what Christ is telling us about is a personal encounter.  That cannot come into existence by just human words or human testimony.  Of course, the Lord doesn't say that he doesn't need the witness of the disciples.  He said this, "You, too, will bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning," (verse twenty-seven).  Generations of the church have been telling forth of Christ with human words until this very day.  The church has never ever thought anything like even if a human being had never testified of Him, Christ will be told forth by the miraculous power of God.  It treasured the testimonies of the apostles at the beginning and the preaching work done in a person's words.  But, those words of the church and the testimony of the scriptures are no more than props and tools for [the Spirit's job].  It is but the work of the Holy Spirit to use them and grant us an encounter and community with Christ.  If it doesn't come from the miraculous work of God, no matter how eloquent the preaching of the church, it will only be an empty content less shell.  Therefore, before that, he says, (verse twenty-six) that "When the Spirit of truth which comes from my Father comes, you can expect him to bear witness to me."

14.  Then also, the Lord said the following in regard to the work of the Spirit of truth who bears witness to the Christ, "But, when he, that is, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you and enlighten you in all truth; for, he does not speak from himself, but he speaks what he has heard and tells you what will happen from here after.  For, he gives me glory and receives my own [matters] and instructs you," (16:13-14).

15.  We should not think of the phrase of "tells you what will happen from here after" as a general warning of the future because the "what will happen from here after" that the Lord says here has a specific content that is centered on the cross and the resurrection.  The word that is translated here as "tell" is a word more so with the meaning of "report, inform" or "teach" rather than "predict."  The Spirit of truth will re-tell in particular the events of Christ's cross and resurrection and in teaching it will guide persons into the truth of salvation.

16. And this very thing has really happened to the disciples and to generation after generation of the church.  Christ's cross and his resurrection as well as his ascension are events that have happened in history, in time. It also means that as time passes it ends up becoming an event that belongs to the past; but, both the disciples and later Christians do not just recollect the life line of the Lord Jesus and merely remember the cross event.  They have done more than that, they have responded to it with "That cross was for me.  That resurrection was for me."  That is really where they have had an encounter with Christ and fellowship with him.  That's how the Holy Spirit of truth re-tells the cross event, informs us, instructs us, and guides us into the truth of salvation.

17.  It is because we believe the work of the Holy Spirit and rely on Him that we are still proclaiming the events of Christ today.  Unless we believe in the work of the Holy Spirit, what we say in the Lord's Supper as "This is the body of the Lord Jesus Christ which was broken for us.  This is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which was shed for us" is truly nothing but mumbo jumbo.5  The reason we practice Holy Communion today or even keep inviting persons who are in the process of looking for answers with the invitation to "please be baptized and take part in the Lord's table" is because6 we believe in the work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth.

18.  [On} the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit, the day when the mission of the church was inaugurated, those who were gathered in assembly there were not any sort of special people.  Today too, those who are assembled here are not any sort of special people.  We are an assembly of persons full of foibles and truly poor sinners.  But, [though] we are like that, he is with us and [on] this day of the celebration of Pentecost, we want to be grateful that the Holy Spirit, the advocate and the Spirit of truth, is with us.  And we want to rely on the the work of this One, be joined to the church, confess the faith, present ourselves to God as tools for God's use, and be diligent in the mission work of preaching.

End Notes

1Pentecost is a feast that was celebrated seven complete weeks after the Passover, which marked the liberation of Israel from slavery and the giving of the law to Israel under Moses.  It also coincided with the celebration of the first harvest.  Pentecost marks the giving of the Holy Spirit to Israel and the world of believers we call "the church."

2In Christian talk in English, the Holy Spirit is referred to as either "he" or "it."  This is because the original Greek word for "Spirit" is in the neuter form ending in -ma, (neither in the masculine nor feminine forms, which usually end in -os, or -e, respectively).  The Spirit is also spoken of as an "it" because it is a force, a power, but it is also spoken of as a "he" because the Spirit refers to God himself.  In the next paragraph of the sermon we will find that the masculine Greek word, parakletos, has been used for the Spirit.

3The Japanese kanji denotes a helper that is a master or lord (help + lord).

4The Japanese kanji denotes "comfort + lord."

5 "Mumbo jumbo" means "foolish talk." 

6 Pet Peeve et alia: Many grammarians object to inserting the word "because" here because the phrase "The reason is" makes it redundant.  But, I think the sentence is long and may need a boost or reminder.  After all, the Japanese language has many repetitive type words that help the listener keep in context.  I think the Japanese language allows for the use of extra type words, if needed, to keep the sentence focused because so much of the Japanese vocabulary is homophonic that the ear needs a little help.  In other words, Japanese words have so much rhyme to them it gets confusing for them as well.  Factoid: Japanese poetry could care less about rhyme since their language already has rhyme as they naturally speak.  Therefore, meter (e.g. syllable counting) is the object of their beauty as we see in the haiku.

 
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