Part 1. John 14:15-31.
There are two aspects of the sending of the Holy Spirit in these two passages -
1. As sent by the Father;
2. As sent by the Lord Jesus Christ;
and it may be useful to notice a few important truths connected with each.*
*We all remember the dispute, still existing, between the Eastern and Western Churches as to this subject. How much better it would have been to have read the Scriptures, and to have gathered from them the true signification of these immense facts!
In the fourteenth chapter of John our Lord promises the sending of another Comforter by the Father; and I should like to call attention to communion with the Father and with the Son by the Holy Spirit; and also to the unbelieving, materialistic character of the world, in this part of the word of God.
In the other portion the Lord Jesus speaks of sending the Holy Spirit; He, the glorified Saviour, would Himself send the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father. Here we have rather the Lord's glory in the Father's presence, and the opposition of the world to believers. If the true nature of the world in these two passages be considered, we shall find its blind unbelief in the first, and its persecution in the second.
Let us look first of all at the 14th chapter. When our Lord announces that the Father shall send another Comforter, He says that the world cannot receive Him because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him. The world is like a huge city with an inscription over the principal gate: "No admittance to God!" We are living in a time when materialism has been fully developed, when men assure us that they have analysed everything, and that nothing but matter is visible; we must not be surprised if they cannot see, or know, the Holy Ghost. But we know Him; we are not left as orphans in the world; we are brought, by the precious gift of the Holy Spirit, into a knowledge of the divine person of the Son, of the full position of the whole family of God, and of our happy privilege of being here to represent the Lord Himself, He being in us by the Holy Ghost. (v. 20.)
Then we come to the 21st verse, where Jesus no longer speaks collectively, but to individuals: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." Here is Christian obedience, and love to the Lord shown in keeping His commandments. How important the preceding verses, where we are brought into the very place in which He was when upon earth; and given to know the full joy of communion with the Father, by the Holy Spirit: "Because I live, ye shall live also."
Now comes the question, for each one, of true obedience - not of submission to an imposed rule, which was impossible to man in the flesh - of a new nature which delights to obey. Here is one who keeps the Lord's commandments in the very midst of the world that surrounds him; he has full and blessed direction, and the Father makes His love known to him as to an obedient child; the Lord too manifests Himself to him. I shall never forget an old and experienced believer saying to one who had to walk amongst his own relations who understood nothing of these things, "Take care that they see that you have a high principle!" They would not understand the Father's love, or Jesus' manifestation to a faithful soul, but the effect of this obedience of the very highest order would surely be seen.
The point, though, here is the manifestation made to the obedient one, that true and deep knowledge of the blessed Lord, without which there can be no true Christianity; and this leads to the question: "Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?" Keeping His word involves, more than keeping His commandments; for the word includes all His blessed will as expressed here, and our Lord's reply to Judas announces very high blessing to him who shall keep it.
Even in ordinary life we cannot take up our abode with those with whom we are not on very good terms; and a small thing may be an impediment to staying anywhere. I have often used as an illustration the case of those who, in the French Alps, take their flocks during summer to the higher parts of the mountains. There are certain thus and small houses in the heights which can be inhabited in summer, but which are left during the winter, when the flocks are brought down. During this time foxes and other animals sometimes choose to install themselves in the mountain dwellings; and a proprietor going up after the winter to take possession of his house, might see a fox or two looking through the window, which he would have to drive out before being able to live there. The illustration is a poor one, but may help us to understand verse 22, where the word is kept, and the Father and the Son come to dwell by the Holy Spirit with him who keeps it. It is that full perfecting of the love of God in the keeper of the word (1 John 2:5), where the affections are wholly right in the power of the Spirit, and there is the true inward delight to do His will.
It is not merely said that the Lord will manifest Himself to such an one, but that the Father and Son will make their abode with him, and truly nothing could be more blessed. It has often been remarked that such a privilege is a very high one; and so it is, but it is the privilege of every Christian, and we are called to it. Christian privileges are high, and the Holy Spirit has been given to us so that we may go on in the full enjoyment of even the highest of these most precious blessings.
The Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send in Jesus' name, would teach them all things, and bring to their remembrance all things which the Lord had spoken. His peace, too, is given; and we may in these days of unbelief, trouble, and excitement in which we are living, possess a peace in communion with Him who is gone to the Father, which the world can neither know, nor understand.
Thus then in the midst of an infidel world we have the living power of the Holy Spirit as sent by the Father, and the deepest joy in an obedient walk. It may be well to leave the second part of our subject (the sending of the Holy Spirit by Christ) for another time.
Part 2. John 15:26 - 16:15.
We come now to the second aspect of the sending of the Comforter; that is, the one of which our Lord Himself speaks in the first of these scriptures. Here He says that He* would send the Holy Spirit from the Father, and we shall find that this gives the character to the whole passage.
*Notice the emphasis on the pronouns in this passage, especially upon the one referring to the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus, as the ascended and glorified Man in the Father's presence, should send the Spirit who should bear witness concerning Him; the apostles too, who had been with Him from the beginning, should bear witness. The opposition of the world would be aroused, and as we noticed before the Sadducean or materialistic character of its infidelity, so now we shall see its antagonism to Him who is in the Father's presence, whence He has sent the Holy Ghost. The persecuting character of the world thus comes out in the first verses of the sixteenth chapter; and when the Lord speaks of its being profitable for the apostles that He should go away, He begins by shewing what the Spirit's testimony towards the world would be.
Let us remember that the subject before us is the glory of the risen and ascended Jesus in the Father's presence, and the character of the Spirit's testimony.
1st, in face of the world:
2ndly, in believers.
Keeping this in view, we may look a little more closely into these two testimonies; and, first of all, let us notice that in speaking of the world it is not meant here' that it should be convinced and converted by the presence of the Spirit, but that the fact of His being here should demonstrate its true state.
The state of sin is announced by the fact of the Holy Ghost's having taken the place of the Christ, whom the world rejected. It is not here a question of sins in the plural (acts of sin), but of the state of sin in which the world chose to remain in rejecting Jesus: there was now no excuse to be found (compare
15:22-24), and the Spirit's presence demonstrated it.
Again, righteousness towards the world is proved by the Lord's presence with the Father in heaven. This shows that whilst Jesus' work and testimony have been rightly appreciated in the very highest place, the world, too, has been justly punished so far, by His going up to the Father.
And thirdly, morally speaking, the prince of this world is judged. It does not mean that the enemy is yet cast into the abyss, but that his sentence is pronounced, and that no further trial is necessary. Thus, to use an illustration (I trust not too familiar for the subject), I recollect hearing of a brigand who got loose from confinement in Italy, and who then committed various depredations. When he was ultimately caught, it was not necessary to have a second trial, for he was already condemned. The illustration fails of course; for God may, in His infinite wisdom, and for His own purposes, allow the enemy to be at large for the time being, and to occupy that bad eminence of "ruler of this world," but he is not the less morally judged.
So far, then, for the world; and now we may look a little upon what the Comforter can announce to believers.
The Lord had many things to say which the apostles could not then bear, but the infallible Spirit should come, the Spirit of truth, putting everything into its right place in their souls, and guiding them into all the truth. He should not speak from Himself, that is, independently of Jesus, who should send Him from the Father, but He would speak what He should hear, and announce what is coming.
Let us ask first of all, "What is coming? What is there in the future?" The answer is at once grand and simple. The future belongs to our glorified Lord, and everything must give place to the introduction of the Firstborn into the habitable world. Many people will talk to you of prophecy, of the Roman earth, of Gog and Magog, and of the confederation of Latin nations against Russia, and yet fall short of an adequate idea of the future. I quite admit that the feeblest Christian has a far clearer insight into political questions than the most practised statesman, for the Christian has the true key to all that shall happen on the earth; but we have a far wider subject here; that is, the full glory of Christ when He shall reign over the universe.
We all recollect, as an illustration, Pharaoh's dream when the famine was predicted, and the subsequent exaltation of Joseph; so we foresee the day when all things shall be put under the feet of Joseph's glorious Antitype, when the splendour of His reign shall fill the universe. The future is a very glorious prospect, and what constitutes its beauty for us is the certainty that He, who was dishonoured and crucified here, shall be universally exalted and worshipped.
But then there is an actual knowledge of the Lord in glory in the Father's presence. We know now already, by the Holy Spirit, the things that belong to Jesus where He is. "He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." We do not wait to be glorified to know the present position of Christ, the things that are His, and our part in them. May we know more and more of the resources of Him who is the Antitype of Joseph, for, by the Spirit, all the riches of God's glory are available to faith! The Father's name is then brought in, and adds, in the most blessed way, to the preceding truths. "All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that He (the Comforter) shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." This gives a peculiar charm to the whole passage.
It is not merely the grandeur of the official glory of the Son of man, but the full and blessed acceptance of Christ risen and gone up to the Father. The intimate character of this part of John's gospel has often been before us, and here the Holy Spirit, sent from the glory, where all the Father's heart is known, receives of Christ's and announces it to us. Thrice happy shall we be if we allow nothing to hinder the Spirit's action, for His very mission to us is to announce what belongs to our blessed Lord in the Father's presence.
Thus we can understand what Jesus says, "Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father," and find in these words, as unfolded by the Comforter, the very highest blessing and encouragement. May we know more and more of it! E. L. Bevir.