THE OFFICE AND THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. 8 And he, when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; 11 of judgment, because the prince of this world hath been judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall take of mine, and shall declare it unto you. 15 All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he taketh of mine, and shall declare it unto you (John 16:7-15).
Our Lord, in the Scripture quoted above, announced to the disciples that it was necessary for Him to return to heaven in order to carry on His mediatorial work there; but He promised them that He would not leave them aloneleave them orphans. They had enjoyed His care, counsel, and protection during His stay with them as He engaged in His personal ministry. But in this last quiet talk before His sufferings He assured them that He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who would come and remain with them as an abiding guest, dwelling in their hearts and working in and through them.
The special ministry of the Spirit today is set forth in the following statement: "And he [the Holy Spirit], when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye behold me no more; of judgment because the prince of this world hath been judged." This coming of the Spirit, as we see in Acts, chapter 2, was literally fulfilled ten days after the ascension, on the day of Pentecost.
In the power of the Spirit the apostles spoke the message of life and convicted the audience of sin. Never before had the consciousness of sin in all its hideousness been burned into their very hearts and souls as it was on this occasion by the Spirit-filled-and-guided apostles. They understood the reality of sin as they had never known it before. They were brought face to face with the facts with reference to Jesus of Nazareth and His being the Holy One of God who came to be the sin-bearer. All open-minded people in the audience saw the truth regarding His being the Holy and Righteous One. To disbelieve and to reject Him was to sinto commit the sin of all sins, that is, to reject light and the only way of eternal salvation. Thus the people were convicted in respect to sin when the Spirit came.
The Holy Spirit in speaking through the apostles also convicted the multitude of righteousness. The Lord Jesus Christ had laid aside the glorynot His essential nature, which thing was an impossibilitythat He had with the Father before the foundation of the world, and had entered the world, as we have already seen, by miraculous conception and virgin birth. He had identified Himself with the human family in order to solve the sin question and to liberate men from the clutches of Satan. Thus having accomplished His holy and righteous mission in the world, He was received up into the glory, which act was a demonstration of the righteousness of God in carrying out the plan of redemption and of the divine approval and acceptance of the atonement made by Jesus for man's sins. God's invitation therefore for Him to leave earth, to ascend to heaven, and to sit at His right hand was the proof and seal of the righteousness of God in sending the Lord Jesus to redeem all who would accept His full and free salvation.
The Holy Spirit also, according to our passage, would and did convict the world with reference to judgment. He brought to the apostles' minds the facts concerning the battle that our Lord had with Satan when He conquered him. The devil and his hosts came and did their utmost to prevent Christ's going to the cross. But as Jesus had set His face like a flint to do the will of God with reference to the sin question by dying in our stead, Satan marshaled all his host and launched the most formidable attack possible against Him at the time of the Crucifixion. As we have seen, the battle for human liberation was fought on the human plane and in the realm of the will. Jesus in an absolute and decisive manner repelled every onslaught of the enemy. In every attempt Satan was hurled back in utter defeat. Hence judgment was decisive, and his defeat was overwhelming. The Holy Spirit, when He came on Pentecost and since then, has proclaimed that the prince of this world has been judged and defeatedhas been brought to nought.
As the apostles guided by the Spirit proclaimed the word of life, their messages went like daggers to the hearts of their hearers. Luke describes the situation in the following sentence: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked* in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?" The Holy Spirit did convict the audience in respect to sin, righteousness, and judgment. Those who thus were brought under conviction cried out, asking what they should do. Peter by the Spirit commanded them to repent and to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. They who gladly received his word submitted to baptism in His name. There were brought together into a Christian community that day about three thousand souls, who constituted the nucleus of the Apostolic Church.
The Holy Spirit has remained from that day until this in the hearts of the true believers, those who have been regenerated, the born-again people. God calls sincere, earnest men into the ministry today. They are to study to show themselves approved unto God, workmen who need not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. They are urged to be filled with the Spirit in order that they may proclaim the message of salvation in the power of God as the ministers of the Word did in the Apostolic Church. Whenever a God-called-and-equipped minister preaches in the power of the Spirit, men are won to the Lord Jesus and accept Him as their Saviour. Of such people it can truly be said that the gospel comes unto them, not "in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance" (I Thess. 1:5). The Holy Spirit therefore is still carrying on His work of convicting men through the faithful ministers of the Word.
He is eager to bring conviction to the hearts of all those who are honest and who want truth. If a person does not want the truth of God, the Holy Spirit will not force Himself nor the claims of Christ upon him. On the other hand, to all honest, conscientious truth seekers the Holy Spirit working through the ministry of the Word will bring conviction. They will respond to the gospel message, put their trust in the Saviour, and allow the Spirit to perform His office of regenerating and cleansing the heart and of making them new creatures in Christ Jesus. How we need the truth preached today in the power of the Holy Spiritpossibly as never before.
With outstretched arms, as it were, the loving Saviour, the Messiah of Israel, the God-man, pleads with everyone: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt.11:28-30). The Holy Spirit and the bride (the Church) likewise invite each one to come and partake of the water of life: "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
To those accepting the Saviour's invitation, I wish to call attention, in conclusion, to the fact that the Christian life is a warfare, a conflict, a race. I urge each one to emulate the example of one of the greatest heroes of faith that ever lived, the Apostle Paul.
3 Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not irksome, but for you it is safe. Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the concision: for we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh: though I myself might have confidence even in the flesh: if any other man thinketh to have confidence in the flesh, I yet more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless. Howbeit what things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you: only, whereunto we have attained, by that same rule let us walk. (Philippians 3:1-16)
In the words of the Patriarch Jacob when he prayed in behalf of Joseph's sons (Gen. 48:15,16), I pray in behalf of everyone who reads this book: "The God before whom ... Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God who hath fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel who hath redeemed me from all evil, bless" every reader of this book who is thirsting after God.
*The word in the original means to pierce violently; to stun. These people were stunned by the realization that they had crucified the Messiah.