- Religion and Philosophy
John's Gospel - A New Look - Number 18; Chapter 16: The Work of the Holy Spirit
Turning Sorrow to Joy
John's Gospel. A New Look-number 18: Chapter 16 - "The Work of the Holy Spirit".
What would you say when you are ready to leave and are about to leave behind a group of followers to keep your work going? Now hours away from the Crucifixion and days away from the Ascension, Jesus gives his disciples urgent and vital advice and information that they are going to need to survive and be effective. Fully aware of the dangers they will face he warns them: "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray." (John 16:1) What he warns them about is in fact going to happen as we know in hind sight. Luke records some of it in the book of Acts. Paul is going to persecute the Church, Stephen is going to be stoned to death, and John and Peter will be warned by the Sanhedrin "not to teach in his name". (Acts 5:28) The writer of the book of Hebrews explains much later to Christians: "Remember those early days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering". (Hebrews 10:32)
Now Jesus gives them (and us) vital information relating to the future of the new movement that he has come to establish on behalf of his Father - the Way or the Church or Christianity. Because of the universal and timelessness of this movement, God is going to work in the Christian Age through the Holy Spirit that is not confined by time and space. Jesus' time on earth is coming to an end and yet he will promise them, as recorded in Matthew 28:18,19: "I will be with you to the end of the age." So he now gives them this important message: "It is for your own good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go I will send him to you". (John 16:7 NIV translation)
Here is one of the great truths and mysteries of Christianity. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. Here is the fact that God will no longer dwell in buildings of temples but in the human temple of the believers. Paul puts it this way: "Christ in you the hope of glory". (Colossians 1:27)
When Peter shares the Good News on the first Pentecost after Jesus Ascension, he says: "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts:2:38,39)
No longer was following God dependent on the temple or any building but rather on the individual believer having the in dwelling Holy Spirit living in them and empowering them. This gives it a universal impact and reaches to all nations everywhere, something Jesus had told the woman at the well as recorded in John 4:21ff. This had already been prophesied in the Old Testament by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
Yes, the early Christians gathered to worship God but this took place in houses and suitable buildings. The time had passed for temple worship and the time had come for a universal church not bound to any place or venue. When believers met they brought the Holy Spirit with them and so Jesus could in fact promise "I will be with you until the end of the age". The Church will be made up of living stones (1 Peter 2:5) with a priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9).
John continues to record what Jesus told his disciples: Yes, I am going but I will return in a little while, this being a reference to his resurrection. Yes, you will mourn and be sad but then your grief will turn to joy, thus comparing his leaving and returning to a woman giving birth.(John 16:19ff)
Jesus then clearly and patiently explains to them about where he has come from and where he is returning to. He also introduces them to the power of prayer. He warns them that difficult times lie ahead when they will desert him. Mark records how this happened. (Mark 14:50)
Finally Jesus warns them that although he gives them peace they will still live in a troubled world. At the same time the promise comes: "I have overcome the world". Here is the secret of a successful Christian life. Living in the world, but no longer of the world; " For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ..." (Colossians 2:9,10). Dead to sin and alive in Christ. What great promises!