What comes to mind when you think about the Holy Spirit? For some, they picture the Spirit of God as a type of force or power to tap into in order to see God do big things. Personally, for a long time, the Holy Spirit was the most mysterious of the Godhead, since I heard people refer to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. This was all a little puzzling to me.
Before Jesus is about to go to the cross He says to the disciples in John 16:7, that it is better He goes away. This is an alarming statement. Why is it better? It is to their advantage He says. If I was one of the disciples I would have protested. What could be better than Jesus right there? Better is “Of a more excellent or effective type or quality.” The word Jesus uses here can mean, “It is expedient or helpful.”1 Jesus, when present with the disciples, was able to explain, heal, and demonstrate only what God could do or say. Yet Jesus says, it is helpful and expedient for Him to go away. He says it is better.
Who or what is better? He also says He is going to send someone to be with them. “‘When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is, the Spirit of truth’” (John 15:26). These words give weight and significance to the role of the Holy Spirit. Ths Spirit’s coming, I imagine, was highly anticipated.
Jesus says it is better because He is sending an Advocate (or Helper) for them. “Advocate” is someone (not some thing) to represent us, go before us, lead us, and be with us. It is a packed word. “‘I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, that He may be with you forever … He abides with you and will be in you’” (John 14:16-17).The Advocate is “another,” like Jesus.
Jesus says it is to their advantage that He sends the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, for One like Him will come to be with them. The Holy Spirit is God’s eternal presence residing with and in the believer.2 The Advocate draws us to the Father, indwells the believer, gives new life, and brings about transformation. Jesus promises the Advocate (a person, not a force),3 like Himself (the Holy Spirit is God) will permanently indwell in the life of the believer.4 Jesus says it is better He goes away.
In Acts we observe the disciples being transformed from scared and doubtful, to bold and confident. A change occurred — the Helper Jesus promised had come.5
The Holy Spirit leads us to Christ, convicts us of sin, regenerates, fills and transforms. The Holy Spirit brings new life through immersing the believer in Christ — uniting the believer with the body of Christ and to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.6 There is a “new creation” through the work of the Spirit. There is truth, life, and joy in a place which was dead.7 There is the fruit of the Spirit produced in the life of the believer. The Holy Spirit actively beautifies and transforms the life of the believer to become more like Christ.8 “But the Spirit comes with a far greater purpose: that I might know the Son, that I might be like him — meaning that the whole point is that my eyes look out to him. Knowing him is life, and looking to him is what enlivens.”9
We started with the Father, then the last post on the Son, and now the Holy Spirit. God reveals Himself to us as a Father — He is a person. We can commune with Him. This is what we do with a good and loving Father. He gives us everything we need. He gave us our life, His Son for our redemption, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of new life — all because He loves us and is a generous and outgoing Father.
We get to talk with our Father. Whether in a time of prayer, when I drive my car, before a meal, or in the middle of the night, I can come to my heavenly Father. I come because He loves me and delights in me as His child. Jesus, who the Father loves, was sent so we could be reconciled to the Father. Jesus is our Savior. The Spirit gives us new life through the life, death, burial, resurrection and return of Christ. It was “better” for the Holy Spirit to be sent for us as our Personal Advocate, and Life Giver. As I understand this, I understand more about God. I understand more about the Trinity. The Holy Spirit calls me, leads me to pray. Jesus gives me access to the Father, as mediator and one who can identify with humanity. And the Father hears my voice, listens, and answers. I pray to the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit.
I like how Michael Reeves puts how very personal this all is:
My new life began when the Spirit first opened my eyes … and won my heart … to Christ. Then, for the first time, I began to enjoy and love Christ as the Father has always done. And through Christ, for the first time, I began to enjoy and love the Father as the Son has always done. That was how it started, and that is how the new life goes on: by revealing the beauty, love, glory, and kindness of Christ to me, the Spirit kindles in me an ever deeper and more sincere love for God. And as he stirs me to think ever more on Christ, he makes me more and more Godlike: less self-obsessed and more Christ-obsessed.10
The Trinity becomes a little less puzzling and much more personal and very real — impacting all aspects of our life.
Next and Last Post on the Trinity: The Trinity: Unity and Diversity
1 NET Bible, note on John 16, 2018, http://netbible.org .
2 An important role of the Holy Spirit is the personal presence of God. The Holy Spirit indwells believers. Jesus promises the disciples that “another comforter” will come to be with them (John 15:26). Later the Apostle Paul says, that the Spirit indwells believers (Rom 8:11). He also says that He gives life to the believer.
3 J. Scott Horrell, “The Other Comforter,” unpublished class notes ST102 (Dallas Theological Seminary, October 2019). “While the Holy Spirit certainly teaches, he also guides, testifies, convicts, encourages, intercedes, calls out, forbids, tells what he hears, and can be tested. All of these activities assume that the Holy Spirit possesses a mind, personal intelligence.” The Holy Spirit is also a person. The Holy Spirit has intelligence (2 Cor 2:13), feelings (Eph 4:30), and a will (1 Cor 12:11).
4 The New Testament affirms that the Spirit is God in Matthew 28:18-20 and 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1986), 53. “The Holy Spirit is recognized as God. He is called God, He possesses attributes which only God has, like omniscience, and omnipresence, and He regenerates people, an exclusive work of God.”
5 Acts 4:8-13.
6 Rom 6:1-10. Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1986), 364. “Being associated with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection establishes the basis for realizing our separation from the power of indwelling sin and our walk in newness of life.” Merrill F. Unger, “God the Father,” in The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, ed. R.K. Harrison, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), 584. “The Holy Spirit … performs a special work in every believer the moment he exercises saving faith in Christ. Simultaneously with regenerating him the Spirit baptizes the believer into union with other believers in the Body and into union with Christ. This is the unique and distinctive ministry of the Spirit.”
7 John 15:1-27. 2 Cor 5:17. J. Scott Horrell, “The Other Comforter,” unpublished class notes ST102 (Dallas Theological Seminary, October 2019).
8 Doug Mangum, “Sanctification,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016). “Sanctification refers to the process of gradual purification from sin and progressive spiritual growth that should mark the life of the believer … it is the work of the Holy Spirit bringing the whole nature more and more under the influences of the new gracious principles implanted in the soul in regeneration. In other words, sanctification is the carrying on to perfection the work begun in regeneration, and it extends to the whole man.”
9 Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 94.
10 Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity, 93.