What exactly is the Holy Spirit going to accomplish in the lives of his disciples? Jesus is about to answer this question. Jesus has promised the eleven in John 14 that he is going to send the Advocate to them so that they are not left alone even though he must leave. But Jesus’ leaving is for their benefit. The Advocate will come which will benefit these disciples and the whole world. Jesus comes back to the Advocate in John 16. We see Jesus lead back into this discussion in John 15:26. So what is the Holy Spirit going to do? What is the work of the Holy Spirit? Jesus will explain this to his disciples in the following verses.
Get Your Focus (16:4-7)
Jesus says that he did not tell him about the persecution and rejection these disciples would experience because Jesus is with them. But now Jesus is going to leave and they need to know what is going to happen to them as they preach Jesus to the world. Jesus then something strange in verse 5. Jesus says that he is going to the Father, who is who sent him, but none of the disciples asked where Jesus was going. Think about that for a minute because the disciples did ask where Jesus was going. Go back to John 13:36. “Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?'” Peter did ask where Jesus was going, yet Jesus says that no one asked where Jesus was going. So what does Jesus mean? Was he confused? Did he forget?
The point that Jesus is making is that when the disciples asked where Jesus was going, it was not out of concern for the work of the Lord. They were asking more in protest for themselves rather than an expression of genuine interest in what Jesus is doing. It was more of a selfish concern that Jesus was leaving them. No one was asking, “Why are you leaving? Where are you going? What is your leaving going to accomplish?” They should consider what Jesus’ leaving will do for Jesus. This is so often what we do in our prayers. Our conversation with God is not about what God is doing but why isn’t God doing what I want! Their sorrow was self-directed rather than focusing on what God is doing. We can easily fall into the same error. Jesus begins by telling us to get our focus. Look at what God is doing. Ask what God is trying to accomplish.
The Work of the Spirit: Convict (16:8-11)
Jesus says that the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict. The Holy Spirit is going to show that all people are guilty. This is a critically necessary work. No one is going to look for salvation from sins until they are convicted. Jesus says that the Advocate will come and convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.
First, the Spirit will convict the world as guilty in regard to sin. God has to teach us what sin is. Without the revelation of God we would never know what God’s law is or that we have violated God’s law. But do not merely think of sin as simply lawbreaking. Jesus adds to what sin looks like in our lives. Sin comes from unbelief (16:9). This is the picture Jesus gives: God has sent Jesus into the darkness, calling for reconciliation to the Father and declaring the cost of reconciliation. But Jesus finds humans unwilling to respond to God’s love. The problem was clearly stated in John 3:19 where the verdict was decreed: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19 NIV) This is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. Show the world that they are in the darkness and guilty regarding their actions. People have rejected Jesus, loving the darkness rather than believe in Jesus.
Second, the Spirit will convict the world in regard to righteousness. God has to teach us that our righteousness is totally insufficient. It is hard for people to recognize that our righteousness amounts to nothing before God because we do not possess righteousness within ourselves. We do not have good works and right living apart from conforming to the will of God. This is why the apostle Paul could powerfully declare that there is no one who is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:9ff). Our goodness is nothing when referenced to the depths of our sins. Jesus declared this truth earlier in this gospel in John 6:63. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63 ESV)
We must be convicted of the gravity of our sins and see the complete insufficiency of our actions before God. The standard of righteousness is God, not ourselves. We want to compare our righteousness to other people for then we think we are fairly righteous people. But we must compare our righteousness to the righteousness of God and then we will see the infinite gap between us and God. Then we can see how woefully short our actions measure up to God. Most people have played the board game, Monopoly. The game contains all kinds of denominations of money in all kinds of pretty colors. But no one can take that Monopoly and go to the store to buy groceries. The money will not be accepted. In the same way, our righteousness does not work in God’s economy. Our works do not set us free but condemn us. The work of the Spirit was to show us that our righteousness is totally insufficient.
Third, the Spirit will convict the world is regard to judgment. The world’s judgments are profoundly wrong and morally perverse. Our judgments, values, and discernments are all based on the wrong standard. We make false evaluations all the time. The world defines life by all the wrong things. We try to find importance and value and pass judgments based on wealth, appearances, status, standard of living, success, career, and so many other things. Paul plainly declared that we are corrupted by deceitful desires and darkened in our understand and must be renewed in the mind and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:18-23). God is the standard for judgment. Satan is already condemned for his false judgment and evaluation and all who follow in his ways and in his lies are also condemned. The Spirit would come to set the standard for proper, right judgments.
How was the Spirit going to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment? Please remember John 16:7 that Jesus is promising the Spirit to these apostles yet his coming will convict the world. The Holy Spirit would come to the apostles who would write down what the Holy Spirit revealed so that we when we read and listen to the word of God, it is the Holy Spirit working on our hearts to convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. We experience this when a lesson hits our hearts hard. It is not my words. It is the work of the Holy Spirit through the word that is causing our hearts to be moved. The word of God is living, active, and powerful (Hebrews 4:12).
The Work of the Spirit: Guide (16:12-15)
There was another work of the Holy Spirit for the apostles which would be for their benefit and why Jesus would go to the Father. Jesus still has many things to teach his apostles. But he is not personally going to do this because they cannot handle his teachings yet. Rather, Jesus is going to send the Spirit of truth. The Spirit will be the one who will guide these apostles into all the truth. This is a very important promise. Who is all truth given to? All truth is not going to be directly given to every Christian. All truth will be directly given by the Spirit to the apostles. This is exactly what Paul teach the Christians in Ephesus.
When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (Ephesians 3:4–5 ESV)
Notice the revelation was made by the Spirit, not to everyone, but to his holy apostles and prophets. The apostles and prophets wrote those things down so that we can have the same understanding and insight that they had. Just as Jesus spoke the very words of the Father with the authority of the Father so also the Spirit of truth will speak the very words of the Father with the authority of the Father.
Now listen to what the Spirit of truth is going to reveal in verse 14. The revelation of the Spirit will show the glory of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is going to glorify Jesus. How is the Spirit going to do that? The Spirit is going to reveal all truth and the truth is that Jesus is glorious. The scriptures reveal the glory of Jesus. The Spirit will declare everything about Jesus.
Conclusion: Let the Holy Spirit work in your life
The Holy Spirit is actively working through the word of God for these are not merely words on a page, but the words of Spirit written down by the apostles and prophets who were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit was threefold according to Jesus.
First, the Spirit would convict. The word of God is the tool to convict the hearts of people. We must be convicted of our sinfulness, our unrighteousness, and our senseless thinking before we will be able to appreciate our Lord. Read the word of God with your heart open allowing the Word convict.
Second, the Spirit would reveal all truth. When we read the scriptures we are reading final revelation of God. There is no more truth to be revealed if the Holy Spirit revealed all the truth. All of the truth means there is no more to be revealed. Too many are trying to find truth in all the wrong places. The scriptures reveal all the truth and the answers we need for salvation and life are found in them.
Third, the Spirit would glorify Jesus. When we read the Word of God we must see the glory of Jesus in what we are reading. Everything in the scriptures is pointing to the love of God in Christ Jesus. So we read the scriptures looking for the glory of God so that we would praise and honor him as glorious.