The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit in the Book of John

This post is a paper I submitted for my first class while working on my Masters. I would like to hear from those of you who have an interest in the Gospel of John or the work of the Holy Spirit with in the Gospel. Thank you

The Person And The Work Of The Holy Spirit In The Gospel Of John

Liberty Theological seminary

Bygrad

Dale P. Combs

Introduction

The reading of the Gospel of John enables its reader to understand the uniqueness of the Holy Spirit. For John the role of the Holy Spirit encompasses every facet of the believer’s life. This treatise will examine the person and the work of the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel in the following manner: First, how the Holy Spirit fulfills a definite function in relation to Christ—He is sent from God to testify that Christ is the Messiah; this is His primary function. Secondly, gain insight concerning the work of the Holy Spirit as the agent who convicts the world outside of Christ of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Thirdly, understanding how the Holy Spirit enables true worship—because God in essence is Spirit, those who worship Him must do so spiritually, that is, under the direction and motivation of the Holy Spirit. Fourthly, this paper will look at John’s unique description of the Holy Spirit as Comforter or Helper. Finally, John reveals how the Holy Spirit empowers all believers to continue the work of Christ to the end of the age.

The Primary Function of the Holy Spirit—To Reveal Jesus as Messiah

The subject for consideration is the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit. To fully appreciate the Holy Spirit, the Fourth Gospel reveals His importance from the onset of the first Chapter. Here the Gospel writer describes the definite function of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ at His Baptism.

John the Baptist enjoyed a level of popularity with his disciples and those following him in the wilderness, in fact, there were Priests and Levites who wanted to know if he was one of the Prophets or the Christ, still others “were ready to recognize him as the Messiah.”[1] John quickly asserted he is not the Christ nor was he the Prophet Elijah—a teaching based on the Scripture found in Malachi 4:5. The Baptist did however, declare that there would be one coming after him—but for now, he was the voice a “tool in God’s hand, pointing to Another on the horizon.”[2] The next day[3] John encountered Jesus for the second time.

When Christ appears on the scene, John the Baptist makes a public announcement declaring Jesus to be the Lamb of God. Gary Burge explains that the identity of Jesus as the Lamb of God though commonplace in Christian vocabulary, “does not appear elsewhere in the New Testament.”[4] This description of Christ gives answer to Isaac’s inquiry as he and his father Abraham walked up Mount Moriah.[5] Perhaps John had in mind the daily sacrifice, which was offered every morning and evening continually.[6] One thing is certain; Jesus is the Lamb that God provides to take away the sins of the world. This becomes clear as the Baptist narrates his second encounter with Jesus.

The Fourth Gospel does not give as many details concerning the baptism of Jesus as one finds in the Synoptic Gospels. The reason; John’s Gospel assumes “this is common knowledge. He goes on to deal with the wonder of Jesus’ true identity being revealed to the Baptist.”[7] It is clear that Jesus had been baptized some time before this second encounter, and yet John the Baptist makes a startling statement concerning his knowledge of Jesus in his narrative.[8] Kostenberger contends that when Christ arrived on the scene, “John readily acknowledged that not even he himself knew who the Messiah was.”[9] Carson argues, “this did not mean that he did not know Jesus at all, but only that he did not know Him as the Coming One.”[10] The Baptist’s uncertainty as to Jesus being the Messiah was laid to rest however, when, during Christ’s baptism two supernatural events occurred; the voice of God speaking and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove and resting upon Jesus.

It is important to point out here that the voice of the Father speaking is not mentioned in John’s account as it is in the Synoptics.[11] The reason for this is in keeping with the Gospel writer’s Christological view; John calls attention to the Son. The Synoptic Gospels call attention to the Father’s delight in the Son. While both God speaking and the dove descending occurred, it was the dove descending that moved the Baptist from uncertainty, to making the declaration of whom Christ was. To the Baptist, He was not only the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, he was the one with whom the Father said, the one on whom you see the Spirit come down, and remain is He who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.[12]

The appearance of the dove resting on Jesus is an essential element for John the Baptist. It assured him that Jesus was indeed the Son of God and He would be the one who would baptize in the Holy Spirit. It is interesting that the Holy Spirit chose to appear in the form of a dove. According to Luke’s Gospel, the dove was considered the poor man’s sacrifice as Fredrikson notes, “[the dove] was commonly reputed to be the only sacrificial victim that offered its own neck to the sacrificial knife. He goes on to say, it was the Spirit that descended upon Him: that is His kingly anointing: that marked Him as Son of God.”[13] The dove is symbolic of gentleness, tenderness, loveliness, innocence, mildness, peace, purity, and patience, which makes Jesus, fit to teach.[14] The Holy Spirit was given to Christ without measure, making Him qualified and equipped to do the work God sent Him to do.

When The Baptist beheld the dove, he proclaimed Jesus to be the Son of God. This bold proclamation revealed Christ to be the pre-existent one, to be Lord, the preferred one, the Lamb of God, the Spirit-Anointed One, and the Baptizer in the Holy Ghost.[15]

Some have argued that John’s declaration of Christ’s Messiahship so early in the ministry of Christ is grounds for dismissal of his Gospel as historically incorrect; on the other hand, this early declaration caused the disciples to believe Christ to be the Messiah.[16]

The declaration John the Baptist makes of Christ as the Son of God has been the topic of debate. Ancient manuscripts replace Son of God with Chosen of God as Gray Burge asserts, “I am convinced that chosen of God is correct. John will affirm Jesus’ title as Son later in 1:49. But here Chosen is more difficult reading which scribes likely changed to the more familiar Son.”[17] D.A. Carson argues; a good case can be made for the use of  “Chosen One” in early writings but,  “Son” is the common designation for Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.[18] The testimony of John the Baptist declaring Jesus to be the “Son” or the “Chosen One” clearly reflects his understanding that Jesus Christ is the Messiah.

The Prophet Isaiah foretold of the Messiah coming and the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him with wisdom, understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.[19] Isaiah prophesied that the Holy Spirit would endow Christ with extraordinary power, insight and wisdom, so He could rule in righteousness and bring justice on the Earth.[20] As part of his ministry, John the Baptist preached that the Messiah would baptize believers in the Holy Spirit and he would recognize Him when the Spirit descended and remain.[21] When the dove came down from Heaven in tandem with the voice from heaven,[22] and rested on Jesus, that was proof enough for John. The Holy Spirit revealed Jesus to be the Anointed One—the Messiah. The primary function of the Holy Spirit is seen when the Spirit descended as a dove and rested on Jesus, John declares Jesus to be the Son of God.

Just as Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father, so the Holy Spirit came to reveal the glorified Son of God.  Jesus was empowered for ministry by the Holy Spirit. A close look at His public ministry reveals that once He was anointed with the Spirit He went about doing the work of the Father, healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead.

Christ’s baptism experience provided the foundation for the presence, power, and authority of the Holy Spirit as He went about preaching and teaching publically. At every turn there was evidence that the Spirit remained on Him, bestowing on Him power and authority to carry out His mission as God’s Anointed One.

The Holy Spirit As The Agent Who Convicts The World Of Sin

Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Jesus began His public ministry. His message was powerful; He proclaimed that repentance was essential for those who would enter the Kingdom of God.  The ministry of Christ and the ministry of John the Baptist were different in that John proclaimed that he baptized in water unto repentance and he pointed to the one that would baptize in the Holy Ghost.[23] When Jesus arrives, He baptizes with the Holy Spirit.  A closer look at the discourse between Jesus and the religious leader Nicodemus will assist in understanding this.[24]

Nicodemus came to Jesus in the night and enquired of Jesus what he must do to be saved. Instead of engaging in a long discussion, Jesus reveals to Nicodemus “a new prerequisite to see or enter this Kingdom.”[25] Jesus declared in order be part of the Kingdom of God, one must be “born again.”[26] Being caught off guard, he enquired how it was possible to be born again. Jesus explains that one does not enter again into the womb; instead, one must be born of water and of Spirit. He is talking about an inward change.

The new birth is an inward transformation, a complete inward renewal, accomplished by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus explained one must be born of water and spirit, He was referring to this inward transformation. The words of Jesus to Nicodemus reveal an important aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit. “The word Spirit is ruach, translated the breath of God, and the Greek is pneuma, the wind of the spirit.”[27] Carson argues, “in the New Testament any meaning other than Spirit is extremely rare—some translate the first clause of this verse, ‘The Spirit breathes where He wills.’”[28] When God created man from the dust of the ground, He breathed into him and he became a living being.[29] Man gets life from the breath of God. When one is transformed by the Spirit, it is the breath of God, the creative work of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of the spiritually dead. When the Holy Spirit moves over an individual they are awakened to the spiritual world and begin to live the spiritual life.  For one to experience new birth, one must be drawn by the Holy Sprit. According to the words of Jesus, the new birth is essential for entrance into the Kingdom of God. The term used to describe being born again is regeneration. It is important to examine this term in order to have a fuller understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work in the transformation of an individual.

The work of the Holy Spirit in the act of regeneration is often misunderstood. Kostenberger suggests, people’s need for regeneration is not sufficiently recognized.”[30] Regeneration or the new birth is the door into the kingdom of God. It is a divine begetting or procreation. Through the Spirit, believers have been freed from the law of sin and death.[31] Regeneration is an act of God through the Holy Spirit by which the divine nature of the living God is implanted in humans.[32] The need of regeneration grows out of an utter lack of spiritual life in unregenerate people, and their spiritual death in trespasses and sin.

The Prophet Ezekiel stated that God would wash the heart with water and give a new heart and new spirit to those whom He restores.[33] One can conclude that the act of regeneration is the receiving of a new heart, one that is free of impurities. It comes with a new spirit that is alive toward God. This new heart becomes a holy dwelling for the Holy Spirit who can now direct the believer along the path of righteousness. Only Jesus has the power to free humanity from sin, it is the Holy Spirit’s sovereign, quickening act, in which the divine life, and nature is imparted to humanity. It is any wonder John the Baptist testified that the Holy Spirit was given to Jesus without measure or limitation.[34]

This statement in John 3:34 brings up an important question: to whom is John comparing Jesus in regards to the Holy Spirit being given without measure and limitation? The answer is found in the Book of Leviticus, which states, “The Holy Spirit rested on the prophets by measure.”[35]

All the true prophets carried on their ministry through the power of the Spirit. They were used by the Spirit to bring people the message for the time. One of the many examples of the Holy Spirit working in the life of the Prophets can be seen in the ministry of Elijah and his successor, Elisha.  The ministry of Elijah was so characterized by the Spirit that Elisha asked for a double portion of his Spirit.[36] His request was granted and like his master, Elisha became a Spirit anointed Prophet.

The message of the Prophets was sent by the Spirit.[37] A Prophet was called “a man of the Spirit.”[38] True Prophets of God, like Ezekiel and Isaiah, were given power and courage to proclaim the good news of salvation and to do mighty things. The Spirit would anoint these individuals to fill particular offices and to perform certain tasks. The Holy Spirit enabled some to do special feats of strength such as in the acts of Samson.

Long before the coming of Christ, the Spirit had imparted gifts to individuals. When God instructed Moses to build the Tabernacle, God told him that Bezaleel had been filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom and understanding and all manner of workmanship.[39] The ministry of God’s servants in the Old Testament were made possible because of the special endowment of the Holy Spirit. In that period, the Holy Spirit was active through His gifts as well as through His regenerative and sanctifying power. The Spirit equipped Israel’s leaders to fulfill their call to leadership. They were granted appropriate skills and anointing for their particular responsibilities and tasks.

Throughout the Old Testament, there were powerful manifestations of the Spirit. The Prophets predicted a special outpouring of the Spirit on all people in the future. As a result, they envisioned a Spirit-filled community of God’s people. Central to this outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, would be the Spirit’s relation to the person of the Messiah.[40] Isaiah prophesied that the Spirit would endow Christ with extraordinary power, insight and wisdom so that He could rule in righteousness and bring forth justice on all the earth.[41] The anointing of the Spirit would be upon Him without measure. None of the great Prophets or leaders of the Old Testament had the measure of the Spirit that Christ did. He is unique in that the Father loves the Son and has put all things into His hands. Carson explains, “Because of the love for His Son, the Father has given the Spirit to Him without limit, and has placed everything into His hands.”[42] Indeed, from the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit.

Another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work is seen in John 16:7-15. Here, John reveals that the work of the Holy Spirit or the Comforter is to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. William Barkley suggests that these verses are “almost a perfect summary of the work of the Spirit.”[43]

What John is doing here is presenting a courtroom type motif when he talks about the Holy Spirit as the one who ministers as the advocate, counselor, priest, or as lawyer. He is the one who pleads the case in behalf of the believer. He stands in the courtroom of this world along side the accused and works through the accused for the glory of God. He gives counsel, guidance, direction, and strength. This will be discussed in more detail a little later in this treatise.

John reveals another side of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the world. One sees the Holy Spirit as the advocate, the lawyer, the counselor, and the one who stands along side to protect. Now He becomes the prosecutor – the judge of the world in His ministry and His activity in relationship to the world. He will expose, He will clarify, and He will confute the world and all of its wisdom and all of its methods and all of its plans. The Holy Spirit will work to both, convince and convict the world of sin and of righteousness. Reading the Gospel reveals these two sides of the Spirit’s work.

First, He comes to convince the world of sin. He, as prosecutor and judge, lays heavy the indictment against the world of what sin really is. Jesus said, “Because they do not believe Me.”[44] One’s unbelief—the refusal to walk in the light, the rejection of the Son of God, refusing to believe Christ, refusing to believe the Words He spoke, is the greatest sin that anyone can commit. To doubt God, to doubt His Word, to close one’s eyes to the truth, to close one’s heart to the moving of The Holy Spirit; this is most deceitful sin that can ever get a hold of the heart of a man.

The word convict comes from the Greek word: elegchō. It can mean to put to proof, to test, “to convince or convict” or “to correct or punish.”[45] Harris suggests that it should be taken to mean convict in a legal sense, although he admits this doesn’t fit the context of vv. 10-11 very well.[46] Aloisi argues, “The emphasis in John 16:8 seems to be on showing people their sin and convincing them that they stand guilty before God. This convicting or convincing work involves the Holy Spirit bringing the world to a self-conscious “conviction” of its sin and guiltiness.”[47]

Secondly, the Holy Spirit also has been sent to convince the world of righteousness; that is why Jesus declared He was going to the Father.  Here Jesus is talking about leaving—going by way of the cross. When this happens, the Holy Spirit is going to make known to the world that the only way to righteousness is through Jesus and the cross. No longer will the legalistic rules of Judaism be the way to righteousness.  Jesus states, the Holy Spirit will convince every man that his self-righteousness is not the way. Every man who thinks he is good enough will discover he is not when the Holy Spirit comes in power and simply refutes his reasoning.  The Holy Spirit will expose the unbelieving world of its sinfulness because they do not believe in Christ. The Spirit will bring to light the righteousness of Christ and His acceptance by the Father because He will go to the Father and will no longer be on this earth. Then He will bring to light the fact and truth of judgment.

Judgment is not just a day in the future—there is a judgment day, but judgment is a process that goes on in the world continually so that those who shun the truth and who turn away from God are already under the process of being judged by the Holy Ghost. Jesus declared, “The prince of this world is already judged.”[48] His case is come up before the Almighty judge and he is weighed in the balances and found wanting. Not only that, but every man’s case is constantly coming before the high court. In that court, there is no bribery of the jury because the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead Himself, stands as both prosecutor and judge to point the finger of charges and accusations and nobody can escape them. Each person may offer excuses, they may present arguments and complaints, and say what they will; however, when the final verdict comes, there is no deviation, there is no turning, and there is no hypocrisy. The light wins out, the truth shines through, and the verdict reads pure. Unbelief and turning from God stands under the condemnation of God Almighty. The process of judgment continues. Then on a certain day, it finds fulfillment. The Spirit will show the unbelieving world that it is under God’s judgment because it (the world) has sided with the prince of this world (Satan) who is already under God’s judgment. It should be noted here that this is the basis of the gospel: Man is sinful, Christ is righteous, and humanity stands condemned because they have not believed Christ rather, they follow the prince of this world. For a person to come to Christ, they must experience this conviction of the Spirit.  Therefore, the Holy Spirit has been given to guide humanity to the truth, for one to truly worship God they must do so spiritually. To fully understand this, one only needs to read the story of Jesus being led by the Spirit to encounter a woman in Samaria.

The Holy Spirit enables true worship

Everything Jesus did was based on His willingness to be led by the Spirit. When Jesus met the Woman at Samaria, it was not a change encounter; it was an inner constraint of love and obedience,[49] which led Him to the well in Samaria. From her dialogue with Jesus, the Samaritan woman discovered that God in essence is Spirit and those who worship Him must do so spiritually, that is, under the direction and motivation of the Holy Spirit. The Worship of God in spirit and truth was foreign to the Samaritans. They were accustomed to worshipping in the temple at Mount Gerizim, which was built by Sanballat, and was destroyed in 129 B.C.[50] In this discourse, Jesus gives this woman a vivid illustration of what happens when one receives new life through the Spirit of God. Burge argues, “water has become a symbol of this new reality since the beginning of the book, and later will be defined as the Holy Spirit.”[51] What Jesus reveals to her in this encounter is a dramatic change from her past understanding of how God works. Standing before her is the Living Water; Jesus, He is offering her the gift of God. All she has to do is drink in this water (the Holy Spirit) and she will never thirst again. Jesus is not referring to just a simple experience, He wants her to understand that when she drinks of the Spirit, her life will be transformed in to a well bursting forth with true worship to God. Jesus offers her water from above that can quench her deepest thirst not for a day but forever! The end result of this encounter reveals what happens when one receives the gift of God; for upon hearing these words, she goes and gathers all who will come with her, and they too believe on Jesus, experiencing the refreshing water that comes from above and became true worshippers of the Father. It is the Holy Spirit, working through Jesus, which inspired the Samaritans to become true worshippers. There can be no true worship unless the Holy Spirit prompts and directs it. The message of the Person and the Work of the Holy Spirit was the message Jesus presented to His disciples as they gathered in the upper room.

The Holy Spirit described

According to Kostenberger, the second half of John’s Gospel deals with the giving of the Holy Spirit subsequent to Jesus’ glorification.[52] It is in the second half that Jesus gives full disclosure of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples.  John reveals to his readers two characteristics of the Holy Spirit: the parakeltos[53] and the Spirit of Truth.[54]

During the Passover meal, Jesus told the disciples there were some truths that they were not able to bear at that time. However, He then assured His disciples that the Comforter, whom He  would send to them—the Spirit of truth, would lead them into the truth. It should be observed that Jesus is characterized as “the truth.”[55] This follows what was stated in the beginning of the fourth Gospel.

In order to understand the importance of the concept of truth in the writings of John, one needs to look at the etymology of the Greek word alethes and how it is used in the New Testament, especially in the Gospel of John. Strong defines alethes by noting that it is derived from the negative particle “A” and the Greek word lanthano.[56] This word lanthano is a prolific form of a primitive verb, which means, to be hidden.[57] It is often used as an adverb meaning unwittingly. It is translated as: be hid, be ignorant of, unawares. Therefore, the word alethes, which is the opposite of hidden because of the particle “A”, means true in the sense of not concealing. It is translated as: true, truly, truth. As Thayer points out, alethes is used both objectively and subjectively in the New Testament. He explains, objectively alethes is used in a universal sense and in a more particular sense as it relates to religion.[58]

Kostenberger points out that the concept of truth used in John’s Gospel encompasses several aspects: first, truthfulness as opposed to falsehood. Second, truth in its finality as compared to previous preliminary expressions: that is in it’s eschatological dimension. Third, truth is an identifiable body of knowledge with actual propositional content. Finally, truth is a sphere of operation, be it for worship or sanctification.[59] Kostenberger goes on to say that the Holy Spirit is involved in all four aspects; He accurately represents the truth regarding Jesus, He is the eschatological gift of God; He imparts true knowledge of God; and He is operative in both worship and sanctification.[60]

The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Truth because He is the great communicator of truth. The truth He brings is founded in Jesus Christ, who is as John reveals, the way, the truth, and the life.[61] The Holy Spirit bears witness of Christ, and takes the things of Christ and makes them known to believers.[62] The Holy Spirit opens the minds of men to see the deeper meaning of Christ’s life and words. As the Son did not speak of Himself, but spoke what He received from the Father, so the Spirit will not speak of Himself as from a separate store of knowledge, but will declare what He hears in the inner life of the Godhead.

The second characteristic described by John of the Holy Spirit is parakletos. John uses the masculine form of this Greek word, derived from para meaning: to come to the side of and Kaleo meaning: to call or summons. Together parakletos means: one called or sent for to assist another.[63] Carson offers this insight, “parakletos primarily means ‘legal assistant, advocate’ some one who helps another in court, whether as an advocate, a witness, or a representative.”[64] He further states, “ the passive form does not rule out the possibility that the Paraclete may be an active speaker on behalf of someone before someone else.”[65] This is important because the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal power, but the intelligent and divine Helper who lives within the believer. Kostenberger argues that the translation of this word has proven to be difficult, because the English language does not have an equivalent word to translate it.[66] Kostenberger insist that the word should be translated as, helping Presence, which seems to capture the importance of the term better than any other does.[67]

It appears what John is presenting is a courtroom type motif as he presents the Holy Spirit as the one who ministers, as the advocate, counselor, as the priest, and the lawyer. He is the One who pleads the case—the one who even prays through the believer. Here He stands, between the believer and the accusations brought on by the accuser of the brethren. He defends the believer and brings them to the throne—standing in the courtroom of this world and standing along side of believer. The Holy Spirit stands up for them and works through them for the glory of God.

The fourth Gospel records Jesus stating the Father would send another Helper.[68] The word another, means of the same kind of effect. The implication here is that Jesus himself is a Paraclete. The Paraclete is given by the Father at the Son’s request. The Gospel writer reveals that the Father sends the Paraclete in Christ’s name. According to John 16:7, Christ sends the Paraclete from the Father, and He proceeds from the Father. John intends no significant difference between these expressions. Both Christ and the Holy Spirit are the believer’s Paraclete. Both serve God’s redemptive purpose. As Christ bears witness to the Father, the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Son.

Another aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work is to aid in the remembrance of the work and teachings of Jesus. Jesus explained that when the “Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth; he will not speak on his own authority, but what ever he hears he will speak, and he will declare it to you.”[69] Barclay discloses the two things Jesus says about the Holy Spirit. “First, He will teach us all things, and second, he will remind us of what Jesus said.[70]

It is important to remember that these disciples would carry on the work Jesus had started. Jesus promises that they will have the assistance of the Holy Spirit as they reproduce His teachings.  He assured them that the Spirit would come and bear witness to God’s gracious work in the hearts of believers not only following His death and resurrection, but to future believers as well.

The two characteristics of the Holy Spirit in the fourth Gospel both have relevance in the modern world just as Jesus promised. The Spirit of Truth is seen in the revelation of the Word of God as one teaches or preaches. The Spirit bears witness that what is being taught or preached is not man centered or based on the wisdom of the world. The Spirit of Truth teaches one to trust in God and His purpose as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. The Spirit of Truth leads one to know the Jesus of the Scriptures. Life that comes from God is always grounded in God’s eternal and immutable truth. God’s truth is unique and universal. It is absolute. One cannot adjust God’s truth to their interests and purposes. God is not man’s omnipotent servant. The Holy Spirit never condones any other standard of Truth other than God’s standard of Truth.

The Parakletos or “helping presence,” as Kostenberger describes Him, was promised by Christ to His disciples as their special helper. He promised that the Spirit would come and bear witness to God’s gracious work in the hearts of believers. All Christian experiences that are formed and nourished by the Word of God are the work of the Holy Spirit. He is the one that renews, transforms, gives a sense of forgiveness and acceptance with God, gives peace, joy in prayer, communion with God, comfort in affliction, dispels the fear of death, enables one to conquer lustful appetites and passions, and the power to resist temptation. He is the one who is always practical and relevant to human need.  The Holy Spirit’s presence becomes vitally important to the disciples as they approached the time of Jesus’ departure back to heaven. For a moment they were taken back, but following the resurrection and His subsequent appearance Jesus reassures them that what He has told them was true and they would in fact be equipped to finish the task before them.

The Holy Spirits Indwelling

Following the resurrection of Jesus, the Gospel writer explains that the disciples met together at a particular location perhaps the upper room where the Last Supper was held[71] and they bolted the doors because of fear that eventually the vengeful enemies of Jesus would seek them out.[72] Locked doors may have proved strong enough to keep the fearful disciples safe from those who sought to do them harm, but they were no match for the risen Savior. As they assembled in the room, Jesus came and stood in the midst of them.[73] This is not a chance encounter, Jesus knew His work on Earth was almost complete, He had one more task before He could leave; [74] to commission His followers as He was commissioned by the Father.

As Christ approached the end of His ministry and prepared to release His followers, He introduced them to the truth of the coming of the Holy Spirit.  He had referred to that coming previously when He spoke of the well of water[75] and the river of water flowing from the innermost parts of those who believed on Him.[76] The writer Luke declared that Jesus’ Father would give the Holy Spirit to them and all they had to do was ask Him.[77] He had declared to them prior to His death how He would pray to the Father and He would give another Comforter that He may abide with them forever.[78] Throughout His farewell discourse, Jesus referred many times to the coming of the Holy Spirit and defined the ministry He would perform.[79] Now He stands before these fearful followers and He is going to do something that will impact them for the rest of their lives.

The Gospel writer records, that Jesus breathed upon His disciples and said, “receive ye the Holy Ghost.”[80] Scholars have spent a great deal of time in debate over this particular event in John’s Gospel. Barclay contends that Jesus breathed on them and gave them the Holy Spirit.[81] Burge suggests that “Jesus places the Spirit that was in Him within their lives and fulfilling the words given at the Feast of Tabernacles, where Jesus’ offer of living water referred to the Holy Spirit, which could not be distributed until Jesus was glorified.”[82] At first glance, it would appear that this is the proper understanding, but as Kostenberger points out, “none of the other Gospels record such a giving of the Spirit to Jesus’ disciples prior to Pentecost…” He continues, “the message of John 20: 22 becomes clear John is employing creation symbolism.”[83] As God breathed life into the first Adam He had created from the dust of the earth, so now the Lord breathes life into the body of the Second Adam, or what will become the Church, and He speaks the words of empowerment, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” This event is the prelude to the act of enduement of power by the Holy Ghost that would come on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit would be manifested as a mighty wind instead of breathing upon.[84] When they arrive in Jerusalem, they will receive the power to fulfill the words of Christ when He said, “Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.”[85]

It must be noted that Jesus was not saying that the disciples would have either the power or the capability of forgiving sins or of retaining sins. Rather, following His exercise of breathing upon them and His command to receive the Holy Ghost, that when they pronounce that sins are forgiven through the power of the Spirit, those sins will have already been forgiven through the power of the cross. On the other hand, as long as they, through the Spirit, “retain” sin—that is, they declare by the authority of the Word and through the power of the Spirit that a deed is sin, such sin will have been retained because forgiveness has not been sought through the cross of Christ. In this way, the disciples will continue to fulfill the work of Christ until He returns one day.

Conclusion

The Person and the Work of the Holy Spirit permeates the Gospel of John. He is seen primarily as the one who comes to testify that Jesus is the Messiah. That Jesus is the way to salvation in view of the fact that He is the agent who convicts the world outside of Christ of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He draws them into a right relationship with God and empowers them to become true worshippers. When believer’s find it difficult to handle the accusations, The Holy Spirit comes along side them as the Paraclete or Helper and He empowers them to do what they could not do in themselves. With their sins forgiven, their hearts purified, the Spirit anoint’s them for service and ministry, enabling them to finish the work of Christ to the end of the age.

Bibliography

Aloisi, J. The Paraclete’s Ministry of Conviction: Another Look at John 16:8-11, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47(1, 2004)55-69 http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rvh&AN=NTA0000048342&site=e            host-live&scope=site. (accessed September 29, 2009).

Barkley, William. The Daily Bible Study: Gospel of John. Vol. 2. KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 1995.

Burge, Gary M. The NIV Application Commentary: John. MI: Zondervan, 2000.

Carson, D.A. The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991.

Fredrikson, Roger L. The Preachers Commentary: John. Vol. 27. TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1985.

Goodrick, Edward W., Kohlenberger, John R. Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. MI: 1999.

Harris, W. Hall III. Commentary on the Gospel of John. Biblical Studies Foundation. 2006. http://bible.org/series/commentary-gospel-john. (accessed September 22, 2009).

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Matthew to John. Vol. 5. VA: Macdonald Publishing Co. 1985.

Kostenberger, Andreas. Encountering John. MI: Baker Academic, 1999.

Perschbacher, Wesley J. The New Analytical Greek Lexicon. MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 1990.

Thayer, Joseph. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. MA:  Hendricks Publishers, 1996.

Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John, Believe and Live. Chattanooga TN. 2002.


[1] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN. 2002, 11.

[2] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 72.

[3] According to the Synoptic writers, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil forty days and nights (See Matthew 4; Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1). The Gospel of John differs on this account John 1:29 states that Jesus appears the next day. It is not clear if Jesus appeared the next day following His Baptism or the next day that Jesus appears from His wilderness experience. In Matthew Henry’s Commentary on John volume 5, pg. 861, explains John 1:29, to mean the next day following His wilderness experience. In D.A. Carson’s “The Gospel According to John” page 148, refers to the next day as the day after John’s response to the Jerusalem delegation.

[4] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 73.

[5] Gen. 22:7-8

[6] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Matthew to John. Vol. 5. McLean, VA: Macdonald Publishing Co. 1985, 861.

[7] Roger L. Fredrikson, The Preacher’s Commentary: John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1985, 51.

[8] John 1:31

[9] Andreas J.  Kostenberger, Encountering John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999, 64.

[10] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991, 151.

[11] See Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22

[12] John 1:33

[13] Roger L. Fredrikson. The Preacher’s Commentary: John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1985, 53.

[14] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Matthew to John. Vol. 5. McLean, VA: Macdonald Publishing Co. 1985, 863.

[15] Ibid,.15-36

[16] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991, 148.

[17] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 74-75.

[18] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991, 152.

[19] Isaiah 11:2

[20] Ibid,. 42:1-4

[21] John 1:33

[22] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991, 151.

[23] John 1:33

[24] Ibid,. 3:1-36

[25] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 114.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Roger L. Fredrikson. The Preachers Commentary: John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1985, 82.

[28] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991, 197.

[29] Genesis 2:6-7

[30] Andreas J.  Kostenberger, Encountering John. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999, 85.

[31] Romans 8

[32] Ephesians 2:1-6

[33] Ezekiel 36:25-27

[34] John 3:34

[35] W. Hall Harris III, Commentary on the Gospel of John. Biblical Studies Foundation. 2006. http://bible.org/series/commentary-gospel-john. (accessed September 22, 2009).

[36] 2 Kings 2:9

[37] Zechariah 7:12

[38] Hosea 9:7

[39] Exodus 28:3, 31:3; 35:31

[40] Isaiah 11:2

[41] Ibid,. 41:1-4

[42] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991, 214.

[43] William Barkley, The Daily Bible Study: Gospel of John. Volume 2. Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 1995, 224.

[44] John 10:38

[45] Wesley J. Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 1990, 134.

[46] W. Hall Harris III. Commentary on the Gospel of John. Biblical Studies Foundation. 2006. http://bible.org/series/commentary-gospel-john. (accessed September 29, 2009).

[47] J. Aloisi, The Paraclete’s Ministry of Conviction: Another Look at John 16:8-11, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47(1, 2004)55-69http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu: 2048.login.aspx?direct=true&db=rvh&A=NTA0000048342&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 29, 2009).

[48] John 16:11

[49] Roger L. Fredrikson. The Preacher’s Commentary: John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.1985, 93.

[50] Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John, Believe and Live.Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002, 41

[51] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 144.

[52] Andreas Kostenberger, Encountering John. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 1999, 156.

[53] John 14:16, 26; 15;26; 16:27

[54] Ibid,. 14:17; 15:26; 16:13

[55] Ibid. 14:6

[56] Edward W. Goodrick, John R. Kohlenberger. Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids MI: 1999, 237.

[57] Ibid,. 329.

[58] Joseph Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendricks Publishers, 1996. 26.

[59] Andreas Kostenberger, Encountering John. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 1999. 157.

[60] Ibid.

[61] John 14:6

[62] Ibid,. 15:26, 16:13-15

[63] Wesley J. Perschbacher, The New Analytical Greek Lexicon. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 1990, 308.

[64] D.A. Carson, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1991, 498.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Andreas Kostenberger, Encountering John. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 1999. 157.

[67] Ibid.

[68] John 14:16

[69] John 14:26

[70] William Barkley, The Daily Bible Study: Gospel of John. Vol. 2. Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 1995, 198.

[71] Ibid,. 317

[72] Roger L. Fredrikson, The Preachers Commentary: John. Vol. 27. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1985, 275.

[73] John 20:19-23

[74] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 558.

[75] John 4:14

[76] Ibid,. 7:37-38

[77] Luke 11:13

[78] John 14:16

[79] Ibid,. 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15

[80] Ibid. 20:22

[81] William Barkley, The Daily Bible Study: Gospel of John. Vol. 2. Louisville KY: Westminster John Knox Press. 1995, 319.

[82] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000, 559.

[83] Andreas Kostenberger, Encountering John. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 1999, 186.

[84] See Acts 2:1-4

[85] John 20:23

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2 thoughts on “The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit in the Book of John

  1. Good night already! I am interested in the work of the Holy Spirit, so I’ll have to put this on my “bucket list.” Goal-to read it before I die. I will start soon! 🙂

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