The last gift unwrapped - John 16:5-16

This is a sermon by Malcolm Peters from the Riverside Church service on 25th November 2007.

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As many of you know, Kate and I have got a 2 year old son called Daniel.    And we’ve definitely hit the terrible 2s.    So as many of you will have experienced, when Daniel had a paddy, they can probably hear it in back in Essex.    And one the things that nearly always sets off a paddy is when Kate leaves Daniel.    Like on Tue evening.  I was late coming back from a visit and there was the usual tea-time traffic jam on Beverley Road.    So I dumped the car in Parkstone Road and walked home.  So after tea we walked round to pick up the car;  Kate got in the car, and I walked home with Daniel.  But as soon as Kate got in the car, Daniel’s screaming hit the Richter scale.    Because, when his mummy’s about to leave him, panic and insecurity set in.

And although they were a bit older than Daniel, that sense of panic and insecurity was exactly what the disciples were feeling when Jesus started talking about leaving them.  So if you’re not already there, the pl turn back with me to John 16 on [p1006/  1678]  and look with me at v5:

5"Now I am going to him who sent me”. 

And if you look down to v16 you see that Jesus tells the disciples that:

16"In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me."

J’s going away, his death, resurrection and ascension back to the F in heaven frame today’s passage.     It’s the big idea of the passage.  Jesus going back to His F.    He’s picking up the theme he introduced back in chapter 14.  So flip back to chapter 14 to remind ourselves what Jesus has already said:

Jn 14:1:  "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

J is going back to the F to prepare a place in heaven for His disciples.    But the disciples were deeply troubled at the thought of Jesus leaving.  So Jesus comforts them.    And in v 15-31 of chapter 14 as we saw a month ago, Jesus comforts them by offering them the last gift.  The gift of the HS.    But then in the first 17 verses of chapter 15, Jesus gave them the last warning.  They needed to remain or abide in Him.  J's disciples needed to persevere as Christians;  they needed to cling to His word;  to his teaching that is.    And that would be difficult as we saw last week.  Why?  Because persecution was coming.  If the world hated Jesus and persecuted him, then it would hate and persecute His disciples;  because, as Jesus warned us, no disciple is above his master.  No Christian can expect a better deal than Jesus.   

So Jesus was going home;  back to His father in heaven.  And the disciples would be savaged by fierce persecution.  Not exactly encouraging is it?   
So with all that in mind, come back to chapter 16 and look with me again at v5:

5"Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' 6Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief.

The disciples were sad, frightened and insecure.  How are we going to survive if you leave us?  How can we remain in you and keep your commandments if you leave us like orphans.       Which is why Jesus says in v7:

7But I tell you the truth:

But of course Jesus always tells the truth because He’s God never lies.  So when Jesus says ‘I tell you the truth’ it’s like He’s clicking his fingers and saying:  listen up;  I really want you to get this.  I know you’re sad;  I know you’re a bit confused;  but I’m going to explain things to you.  And you need to understand this to get through the next few days.      So what’s so important that Jesus says:  ‘I tell you the truth’?  Well look at the rest of the verse:

“It is for your good that I am going away.”

“What?”  You can hear the disciples saying.      Listen up says Jesus.   “It is for your good that I am going away. [Because] Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.

The gift of the counsellor or the HS can’t be given until Jesus has gone back to heaven.   That’s what Jesus is saying.  ‘Why’ you might be thinking?   ‘Can’t God do anything’?  Well yes, God can do anything that’s in accordance with His character and will.  And the role of the HS, as we’ll see in a minutes, was to point people to Jesus.  The HS was going to work through the Apostles to spread the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth.  But the message of Jesus depended on Jesus going to the cross;  it depended on Jesus being raised from the dead on Easter Sunday.  And it depended on Jesus being enthroned in victory back in Heaven as he retuned to His father.  So the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, couldn’t have happened until after Easter; it couldn’t happened until after the ascension.   “Unless I go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” And that was better than having Jesus with them in the flesh.  
App:   I wonder if you’ve ever thought:  well if I’d been there when Jesus turned water into wine back in chapter 2, then maybe I’d believe?  If only I’d been thee when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead back in chapter 11, then maybe my faith would be strengthened.    No it wouldn’t says Jesus.  It’s better for us here and now that it was for the disciples then.  You’re better off now than the disciples were here in chapter 16.  The grass isn’t greener on the other side.   

But how does the gift of the HS make things better?  How does the gift of the HS comfort the disciples?  How does the HS strengthen the disciples to remain in J’s teaching and persevere through the coming persecution?      And that’s what the bulk of today’s passage is about.  It’s about the work of the HS.  It’s about the Last gift unwrapped. 

Because in v8-11 we’re going to see that the HS convicts the world of its guilt.
And in v12-15, we’ll see that the HS led the disciples in all truth.

1. The HS convicts the world of its guilt  (v8-11)

So first of all then in v8-11, the HS convicts the world of its guilt.
The HS convicts the world of its guilt.   Look with me at v8:

8When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt[a] in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:
And the first thing to notice about the HS us that he’s a he.    In the original, the he is emphasised.  Literally v8 reads:  ‘at he, when he comes, he will convict the world of guilt.’

The HS is not an it or a she.  Jesus isn’t saying ‘let the force be with you’ like in Star Wars.  The HS isn’t an impersonal force like the so-called energy force Ch’I in various Eastern mystery religions.  No the HS is a person; a he;  just like the F and the Son.  The Bible give us no liberty to call God she.  The HS is very much a He.  

So what does he do that’s so amazing that it’s better to have him rather than Jesus in the flesh? 

Well ‘he, when he comes, he will convict the world of guilt’
And the word convict here has a much deeper sense than just a legal declaration.  Even since Barry George was convicted of murdering Jill Dando, he’s protested his innocence.  He was legally convicted of the crime, but there’s never been any inner conviction in his heart.  Which is possibly because he never did it, but that’s another story. 

And it’s that inner conviction of the heart that v8 is talking about.  It's when a sinner accepts in their inner being that they really are guilty as charged before God;  it’s when a sinner accepts that they deserve justly to be punished by God.    

So what is the world guilty of then?    Well the rest of v8 tell us.    It’s guilty in regards sin, righteous and judgement.  The world’s guilt because of something to so with its sin, its righteous, or lack of it, and because if its judgement, or misjudgement.  And v9-11 unpacks those 3 aspects for us.  So let’s look at them in turn.

Sin  First of all then in v9:  in regard to sin, because people don’t believe in me.    And to understand this we need to be clear about the difference between sin and sins.  The heart of sin goes back to the Garden of Eden. 
The heart of sin is living in God’s world without recognising the Lordship of God;  either by pretending He’s not there or by simply ignoring Him as the creator and ruler of the universe He made.    The heart of sin is ignoring God.  And God the F has fully and finally revealed himself, as we saw in those opening verses of Hebrews, in the person of His Son.   Jesus is God with a human face.  If you want to know what God the Father’s like, then look at God the son.  And so to reject Jesus is to reject God.  The heart of sin then is not to believe in Jesus.  Because Jesus is the creator God who sustains your every breath.  The HS will convict the world of its guilt in regard to sin, because people don’t believe in Jesus.

Righteousness:  but the heart of sin leads on to specific sins.  And that’s what the righteousness is all about in v10; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the F where you can see me no longer, says Jesus.   The HS when he came would continue J's work of exposing unrighteousness and sins.     Like the hypocrisy of the religious leaders Jesus had exposed back in chapter 7.   

But after Jesus has returned to the F, the HS will continue to shine light in to an unrighteous world;  exposing its unrighteous sins as a means get to the heart of sin:  exposing people’s unbelief in Jesus and so their rejection of the one true God.  The HS will convict the world of its guilt in regard to righteousness, because Jesus was going to the F where he could not be seen any more, and so the HS would carry on the good work. 

Judgement:  and finally in v11:  the HS would convict the work of its guilt “in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”  And the prince of this world is Satan;  and Jesus is so sure of Satan’s defeat by his death on the cross, that Jesus can speak of it in the past tense even at this stage.  Satan is defeated;  no doubt about it. He’s not quite dead yet;’  he’s like an angry wasp trapped in a jam jar, ready to sting you if you put your finger in the way.  But Satan as good as dead.  No doubt about it. 

And so Jesus is simply saying that if you make a wrong judgement about Jesus, then you’re aligning yourself with Satan;  you’re joining the losing side.    And just like England supporters last Wednesday, it’s not a great being on the loosing side is it? 

But, of course, this it much more important that football.  We’re talking heaven and hell.  Jesus is coming back to the central sin of rejecting God.    And when he comes, one of the HS’s main roles will be to convict people of their wrong judgments about Jesus.  To convict them of the heart of sin;  the sin of not believing in Jesus as he exposes their unrighteousness sins and teaches them all about Jesus.

And that’s exactly what’s been happening [here at] Riverside recently.  A couple of months ago we baptised Margaret Spiller and we talked through what had happened to bring her to that point.  She’d done CE once but wanted to do the course again because she didn’t get it.  And then finally, one week, the penny dropped.  She understood the Gospel and accepted it.  She accepted that she was a sinner deserving God’s judgment, but that Jesus had died for her;  Jesus took her punishment so that she could be forgiven.  Suddenly the written words in the Bible came alive and she understood them.    The HS had exposed her sin, her unrighteousness sins, and her wrong judgements about Jesus.  And so she repented of all that and became a Christian. 

It is to for your benefit that I am going back to my F, Jesus told His disciples.  Why?  Because, then the HS will come and carry on my work all over the world, all at once.  Even in people like you and me here in Hull. 

So in v8-11 then, the HS will convict the world of its guilt. 

2.   The HS led the disciples in all truth (v12-15)

And secondly, and much more briefly, we see in v 12-15 that the HS led the disciples in all truth.    The HS led the disciples in all truth.    Come with me to v12 where Jesus says to the disciples:

12"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you in all truth.

And the first thing to notice is that Jesus is making a promise here to the disciples.    We aren’t at liberty to rip this, or any text, out of context and apply it directly to ourselves.  If we don’t handle the Bible properly, then you really can make it say whatever you want.  And this is one of these verses that has been particularly used in that kind of way. 

The first golden rule of correctly interpreting the Bible is to ask:  humanly speaking, who was speaking or writing to who, under what circumstances and why?  And here, Jesus is speaking and making a specific promise to the disciples.  And he’s picking up on what he’s already said in chapter s 14 & 15. 

Flip back with me to 14:25

 25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

And onto 15:26:

26"When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

The disciples had been with Jesus from the beginning.  They were eye-witnesses of his miracles.  They had heard His teaching.  But they had seen and heard so much that it was hard to take it all in.  As Jesus puts it back in 16:12:

12"I have much more to say to you, [in the sense of much more to explain to you] more than you can now bear.

And so when He, the HS comes, he will remind you of everything you have seen and heard.  And he will show you how it all fits with what was said about me in the OT.    He, the HS, will flesh out the implications of all that you have been eye-witnesses of.    He, the HS, will guide you the disciples in all truth, so that you can testify about me;  so that you can be my accurate and authoritative eye-witnesses.    So that you can write it all up as inerrant NT Scriptures.    Don’t turn to it, but listen to these words from 2 Peter 1:16:

1 Peter 1: 16We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Before the apostle even died, they were recognising each other’s writings as authoritative Scripture on a par with the OT.    The Scriptures are the living and active Word of God as the book of Hebrews puts it;  sharper than any double-edged sword.  How can a book, even an accurate historical book, be living and active?  How can the words of the Bible be so double-edged that they penetrate deep into our hearts just as J’s words did to His first hearers?  Because the same HS of truth who guided the Disciples in all truth, illuminates our minds as we read His inspired words.    If you’re a Christian, the HS who lives within you, opens your mind as you read the Scriptures and as you listen to them being explained.  And that’s what should be happening right now are God’s word is preached.  It’s certainly what we prayed would happen at the start of the sermon.

Concluding Application

Yes there are such things as Words of Knowledge and NT prophesy.  Yes the HS can and does guide some of us with subjective hunches, visions and dreams;  yes some people have the gift of tongues and other gifts of the Spirit. 

But the primary role of the HS for non-Christians is convict them of their guilt and led them to faith in Jesus.  And the primary role of the HS for Christians today is to open our minds to the written apostolic eye-witness testimony in the Scriptures. 

And so that means that there will not be any new authoritative Words of the Lord on a par with Scripture.  Which is why the Bible ends with these words in Rev 22:

Rev 22:18”  I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

And so we need to be careful that we’re not thrown by anyone claiming to have a text that is equal or superior to the Bible:  texts like the Koran, or the book of Mormon or the teaching of the pope, or archbishop of Canterbury or any other church leader.  No text or saying replaces or is even equal with Scripture.    Rather, all Bible teaching, prophesy, words of knowledge, subjective hunches or visions or anything else we believe the HS has given to us directly today must be tested again the written Word of God in the Scriptures.   
And that’s why we encourage everyone here at Riverside to have an open Bible as we preach so you can test whether what’s being preached really does come out of the Scriptures.  And if it doesn’t, or if you can’t see how the preacher’s got what he’s said from the text, you need to go and talk to the preacher.  Because although the Bible’s infallible, my sermons aren’t;  if you’re a Christian here this morning, then you have the HS inside you, and you’re just as capable of reading and understanding the Bible as I am. 

But let’s get back to the original context, because context is always the key to applying the Bible to ourselves.  Remember the disciples’ fear of persecution;  remember their insecurity at the prospect of Jesus leaving them on their own to do the job he’d given them. 

And the point is that they wouldn’t be on their own.  Jesus promised not to leave them as orphans, but to give them the HS;  the HS who would led them in all truth;  the HS who would enable then to write the accurate and authoritative NT.  And Jesus has not left us alone in the job he’s given us to do.  He’s left us that same Word and Spirit. 

And so as we think about getting on with the job we’ve been given, to build up the faith of Christians and to make disciples of Christ from all nations beginning here in Riverside, we’re not to loose heart as we face the enormity of the task.    And nor are we to give into the latest gimmicks of church growth.  No we’re to remember that the prince of this world already stands condemned.  And we’re to remember that we’ve been given all we need:  God’s Word and Spirit.  And we are to rely on God’s Word and Spirit to convict the world of its guilt.  And we’re to rely on God’s Word and Spirit to build His church.  Let’s pray.

Closing Prayer

Dear Holy Spirit, thank you that you are One with Jesus and the Father.  And thank you that you reveal to us the will of the Father and the work of the Son as you open our minds to the living and active Word of God.  Thank you for inspiring those written words and help is to grasp and understand them so that we might be thoroughly convicted of our sin, assured of J’s forgiveness and empowered to serve our Heavenly Father in the work of building His kingdom.  Amen.  

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