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 alone--leave 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.
2 And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound was heard, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying, Behold, are not all these that speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we, every man in our own language wherein we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Judaea and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, 10 in Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt and the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians, we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God. 12 And they were all amazed, and were perplexed, saying one to another, What meaneth this? 13 But others mocking said, They are filled with new wine.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spake forth unto them, saying, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and give ear unto my words. 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose; seeing it is but the third hour of the day; 16 but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel:*
17 And it shall be in the last days, saith God,
I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh:
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams:
18 Yea and on My servants and on My handmaidens in those days
Will I pour forth of My Spirit; and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heaven above,
And signs on the earth beneath;
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke:
20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the day of the Lord come,
That great and notable day:
21 And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know; 23 him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay: 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. 25 For David saith concerning him,
I beheld the Lord always before my face;
For he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:
26 Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
Moreover my flesh also shall dwell in hope:
27 Because thou wilt not leave my soul unto Hades,
Neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption.
28 Thou madest known unto me the ways of life;
Thou shalt make me full of gladness with thy countenance.
29 Brethren, I may say unto you freely of the patriarch David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us unto this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; 31 he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ, that neither was he left unto Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear. For David ascended not into the heavens: but he saith himself,
The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, 35 Till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet.
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.
37 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? 38 And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him. 40 And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. 41 They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers.
43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45 and they sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all, according as any man had need. 46 And day by day, continuing stedfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved (Acts 2:1-47).
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 sin--to 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 glory--not His essential nature, which thing was an impossibility--that 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 defeated--has 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 pricked¹ 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 Spirit--possibly as never before.
* The prophecy of Joel which Peter quoted was spoken to the Jewish people. To ignore this fact and to apply it indiscriminately to people in general is to misinterpret and to misapply it. That which occurred on Pentecost (Acts, chapter 2) was a partial, limited, and incomplete fulfillment of the prediction, which still awaits its complete materialization immediately before and during the Tribulation. Peter in referring to those things which were occurring at that time declared: This is that which has been spoken through the prophet Joel ..." In other words, he pointed out that the things transpiring before their eyes were foretold in Joel's prophecy. But he did not say that all things mentioned in the prophecy were then coming to pass. I may enforce the point by saying that all people who live in Los Angeles live in California, but that all people who live in California do not live in Los Angeles.
This prophecy interpreted in the light of all the facts foretells the beginning of the revival in Israel before the Tribulation, which, at the close of the Tribulation, will sweep the nation of Israel surviving to that time into the kingdom of God.
¹ The word in the original means to pierce violently; to stun. These people were stunned by the realization that they had crucified the Messiah.