Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHEN THE COMFORTER IS COME”

John 15.26-27 

Before we turn to the text for this message, I beg your indulgence as I remind you of several important truths and clarify a couple of things for those of you who are new Christians or not Christians at all.

The great biblical principle that reemerged through the witness and ministry of Martin Luther, and led to the Protestant Reformation in Europe in the 1500s, is justification by faith. The key verses that undergird this foundational principle of God’s dealings with individuals are found in 

Habakkuk 2.3, “the just shall live by his faith,” 

Romans 1.17, “as it is written, The just shall live by faith,” 

Galatians 3.11, “for, The just shall live by faith,” 

and Hebrews 10.38, “Now the just shall live by faith.” 

That a relationship with the sinner is established by God through the means of faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and not via the sinner’s works of righteousness, is crucial to understand. However, it is also imperative that Christians grasp the truth that God’s ongoing relationship with the Christian after he has come to faith in Christ is also through the means of faith.

Thus, one becomes a Christian through faith in Christ, and one lives the Christian life after conversion through faith in Christ. What God began through the instrumentality of faith, God continues through the instrumentality of faith. I am not sure unsaved people can ever fully understand this truth.

The question, of course, is what is faith? I have described faith as the right conclusion drawn from circumstantial evidence. To understand faith as something like a leap of faith is erroneous because faith is always grounded adequately on evidence. But the evidence provided to us by God is circumstantial evidence, as Hebrews 11.1 illustrates: 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” 

Our English word “substance” in this verse translates the Greek term hὑpόstasis, “documents which attest or provide evidence of ownership,”[1] what we might refer to as a pink slip. The word “evidence” comes from ἐlέnchcos, meaning proof. “The word was used in the papyri of legal proofs of an accusation.”[2] In other words, evidence admissible in courts of law. So you see, in the Bible, faith cannot be anything like a leap of faith.

Both of these words in Hebrews 11.1 reinforce the notion that faith is the right conclusion drawn from circumstantial evidence. And the word circumstantial is significant, because with faith, you do not see, smell, taste, touch, or hear. That would be eyewitness proof, firsthand evidence, and it would not be faith. Faith is based on circumstantial evidence, what is not seen, smelled, tasted, touched, or heard. Faith is profoundly important for God’s people because, as the Lord Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4.24, 

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” 

With few exceptions, the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry being the prime example, God’s dealings with humanity have not involved the five senses. Because God is a spirit, you typically cannot see Him, smell Him, taste Him, touch Him, or hear Him. So, how do you interact with Him? God has provided for you and me to interact with Him through faith. “The just shall live by faith.”

Did the Son of God live in our midst for thirty-three and a half years? Yes. God prepared Him a body to sacrifice for sins, and He lived among sinners until the time of His crucifixion when He became the substitutionary sacrifice for sins. During that time, He was visible and could be seen and heard and felt. But notice what the risen Lord would say to Thomas, the doubter, who insisted on seeing and hearing his master before accepting His resurrection as real, John 20.25-31: 

25  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26  And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27  Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28  And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29  Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

30  And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book:

31  But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. 

Understand that God stepped into the human realm in time and space when the Lord Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. But He stepped out of the human realm of time and space when He rose from the dead and ascended to God’s right hand on high. And that was a good thing because faith is superior to seeing and hearing and the other senses. With faith, you can be anywhere on earth and at any time in history and still believe. Without faith, you must be at a certain place at a certain time to witness the important event. That doesn’t work. How could we all fit into Bethlehem, or Capernaum, or even Jerusalem?

Faith is not an option, then. It has to be faith because there is no other way. How then does the Lord Jesus Christ prepare His remaining apostles for His absence? How does He transition them from a seeing Him walk to a faith walk, from a hearing His voice walk to a faith walk, from reclining on His bosom in the Upper Room to a faith walk? He has already told them He is leaving them, and it alarmed them.[3] But He has to leave them, because they cannot fully live by faith while seeing Him, hearing Him, and touching Him. This understanding of faith is more important than many people realize.

Now we look to my text for this message, John 15.26-27. I invite you to stand and read the passage with me silently while I read aloud: 

26  But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

27  And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. 

At the beginning of the chapter, the Lord Jesus Christ used an allegory to illustrate to His apostles the relationship that exists between God the Father (the Husbandman), the Lord Jesus Christ (the True Vine), and those who are Christ’s (the fruitful branches), and the need to abide in Christ. He then spoke to His men of love and the persecution they would face.

He is preparing them, don’t you see? These two verses introduced to their thinking a heretofore unmentioned factor in their success as Christian men, as servants of God, and as apostles of Jesus Christ. Nothing and I mean nothing, happens in the life of the believer in Jesus Christ apart from the activity and the involvement of the Holy Spirit of God. Though He had already mentioned the Holy Spirit of God in John 14.16-17 and 26, the two verses before us were crucial to their understanding (and our knowledge) of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those men.

There are two themes to notice in our text, the Holy Spirit of God, verse 26, and the activity of the apostles in conjunction with and as a consequence of the Holy Spirit of God, verse 27: 

First, THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD 

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” 

Suppose you are inclined to study such things. In that case, this is one of the verses that contributed to the split between the Latin-speaking Roman Catholic Church in the West and the Greek-speaking Orthodox Church in the East a thousand years ago, with the issue being mainly the procession of the Spirit from the Father referred to here.[4]

For our purposes, six observations can be made about the Person and the mission of the Holy Spirit of God:

First, take note that the Holy Spirit is once more referred to by the Savior as “the Comforter.” The Greek word is paraklήtos, someone who draws alongside, an advocate, a comforter.[5] We know this is the Holy Spirit from what the Savior said in John 14.26: 

“the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost.” 

And we know that the Holy Spirit will conduct a ministry in the lives of Christ’s followers that is much the same as He had been, because of the way He described Him in John 14.16, 

“another Comforter,” 

the word “another” translating heteros, another of the same kind.

Next, take note that the Holy Spirit is coming in the sense that He, as the omnipresent God, had not previously influenced the lives of Christ’s men. This speaks to the issue of the Holy Spirit taking upon Himself a new phase of ministry in the lives of Christ’s “little flock” following our Lord’s departure. The Spirit of God is coming. There is no doubt about that whatsoever. How do we know that to be true? How would they know that to be true?

Third, “whom I will send unto you from the Father.” As you might imagine, this is a phrase that bears on our understanding of the Trinity since all three Persons of the Trinity are referenced. In particular, the relationships between the Father and the Son and between the Son and the Spirit are of interest. Because the Bible is a Christ-centered revelation of God to the human race, we are given far more information about the Lord Jesus Christ than is revealed about the Holy Spirit. For that reason, there has been a great deal of conjecture down through the centuries by theologians seeking to understand quite mysterious matters. At present, let us rest in the knowledge that a functional hierarchy exists in the Triune Godhead. All three divine Persons are equally God. We have strong evidence the Son is functionally subordinate to the Father from eternity past. Also, proof the Spirit is functionally subordinate to the Son and the Father. Thus, the Son can promise to dispatch the Spirit to serve as the apostles’ Comforter.

Fourth, “even the Spirit of truth.” This is the verse’s second description of the Holy Spirit by the Lord Jesus Christ. It would seem that truthfulness, as an essential attribute of the Spirit of God, is very important. Is not truthfulness also an essential attribute of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Word of God?[6] This speaks to the deity of the Holy Spirit of God, does it not?

Fifth, “which proceedeth from the Father.” Let me comment on the theological hair-splitting this verse has been subjected to through the centuries: In John 14.16, the Lord said, 

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter.” 

In John 14.26, He said, 

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name ....” 

Then, in this verse, John 15.26, our Lord said, 

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” 

Here is what we have: 

“He [the Father] shall give you another Comforter.” 

“Whom the Father will send.” 

“Whom I [the Lord Jesus Christ] will send unto you from the Father.” 

And then, 

“which proceedeth from the Father.” 

The question is, who sends the Holy Spirit? Is it the Father, or is it the Son? Suppose you are an unsaved scholar of long ago, and you do not assume a complete harmony of will in the Godhead, with a division being possible between the Persons of the Trinity. In that case, this matter seems to be a serious issue. However, if you grant that in the eternal counsels of the Trinity, there has never been a dispute, disagreement, or disparity of any kind, then this issue of who sends the Holy Spirit evaporates. Did the Father send the Holy Spirit? Yes. Did the Lord Jesus Christ send the Holy Spirit? Yes. Does the Spirit of God execute the will of the Father? Yes. Does the Holy Spirit execute the will of the Son of God? Yes. Is there an issue here? No.

Sixth, what will the Spirit of God accomplish when He arrives on the scene in this new aspect of His ministry following the ascension to heaven of the Son of God after the resurrection? The Lord said, 

“He shall testify of me.” 

Is this ministry of the Holy Spirit important? It is profoundly important. Remember the principle of facts being established by two or three credible witnesses?[7] If the Word of God is one witness of fact, then the Spirit of God serves as a vital second witness of fact. In this regard, the Spirit of God is profoundly important, is He not? While the Savior is up there, the Spirit is working down here to testify of Him. Those of you who are believers will remember when you were under conviction before your conversion to Christ. Someone witnessed to you or preached to you, or you read the Bible.

Do you remember how you knew what you heard or read was true? It was the witness of the Holy Spirit, corroborating what the Christian witnessing to you said, or what the Gospel preacher declared, or what you had read in the Bible. You might not at the time have given much thought to how you knew you were a sinner, how you knew you were Hell-bound, and how you knew Jesus would save you if you trust Him. That was the ministry of the Spirit of God doing what the Lord Jesus said here that He would do. “He shall testify of me.” That is why the Gospel rang true in your mind and heart. The Spirit of God provided corroborating testimony. Do you resist the Spirit’s attempts to persuade you of the truth? Perhaps the Spirit of God does not bear witness to the truth with you at all. That’s not good because you will never believe the Gospel's truth without the Spirit’s confirming influence. 

Next, the activity of the apostles in conjunction with and as a consequence of the Holy Spirit of God 

In verse 27, the Lord Jesus Christ declares to His men what they will do when the Spirit of God comes into their lives, and also the basis of what they will do. My persuasion is that the risen Savior gifted these eleven men with the Holy Spirit of God following His resurrection. John 20.22 is the record of the Sunday evening after His resurrection from the dead: 

“And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”[8] 

But our text places those men three nights before the resurrection. Two parts of verse 27 to reflect on, which reads, 

“And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” 

First, the Lord Jesus Christ declares to them what they will do, their activity in conjunction with and as a consequence of the Holy Spirit’s involvement in their lives: 

“And ye also shall bear witness” 

And?

Also?

These two words explain why I maintain that the apostles’ lives and ministries are in conjunction with and as a consequence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Spirit of God will do something, and the apostles will do something. The Spirit of God will do something, the apostles also doing something. What will the apostles be doing that is and also what the Spirit of God is doing? They will bear witness. They will lend credibility to the Gospel by their assertion that they were there, that they saw what the Savior did, that they heard what the Savior said, and they were witnesses of His resurrection. And until the New Testament had been written, near the end of the first century, their verbal testimonies were essential to the Gospel enterprise. More on this in a moment.

But now, I want to bring up what I mentioned in my introductory remarks about faith and the five senses. If you perceive something with your five senses, then faith, as described in the Bible, is not involved. However, if faith is involved, then your five senses do not come into play because we have seen that faith is based upon circumstantial evidence. And this is crucial in connection with the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. Because God is a spirit (and the Holy Spirit of God is undoubtedly a spirit), He cannot be seen, heard, felt, tasted, or touched apart from unusual and infrequent things that He rarely chooses to do. For those apostles to begin living the faith life, they had to start living according to circumstantial evidence instead of seeing Christ walk on water, feed the five thousand, give sight to the blind, cleanse leprosy, or raise the dead.

Therefore, the Spirit of God would not deal with them through their five senses but would interact with their minds and hearts, and souls. He would impress upon them what the Savior had taught them, what they had learned from the Hebrew Scriptures, and how their personality transformations would occur as the Spirit of God produced the fruit of the Spirit in their personalities. As Christ’s likeness was planted in them, from the inside out, they would be excited by the truth, energized by the Spirit’s illumination of their understanding of the truth, and so they would speak the truth in love. They did not usually see, hear, feel, taste, or feel with their sense of touch the Spirit of God. Instead, the Spirit of God worked on their spirits and souls, again from the inside out, renewing their minds as they presented their bodies living sacrifices.

What was the basis for each of these men doing what they did, all but one of them giving up their lives to witness of Christ? 

“because ye have been with me from the beginning.” 

Hang on to this because it is crucial, and it defines what an apostle of Jesus Christ is. He is someone called to represent the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal way, someone who was with Him from the beginning, who saw it all. Understand that there are three kinds of apostles, sent ones, found in the New Testament. First, there is Jesus Christ, “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession,” Hebrews 3.1. Then, there are apostles of Jesus Christ, these men, the Apostle Paul, and Matthias, who was chosen to succeed Judas Iscariot, Acts 1.26. Finally, there are apostles of Churches, “messengers of the churches,” as translated in Second Corinthians 8.23.

The Father sent Christ. Missionaries are those sent by congregations. But our attention is on those chosen, qualified, and sent by Jesus Christ to be personal envoys. The requirement of such apostles, other than the Apostle Paul? We see the qualifications in Acts 1.21-22: 

21  Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

22  Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. 

Whoever replaced Judas Iscariot had to be able to testify that he had seen all that was to be seen of Christ’s ministry, from His baptism at the beginning, to His resurrection, to His ascension, and everything in between. There were two such men, and the lot fell on Matthias.[9] He had seen it all, and he spent the rest of his life, like the others, telling the old, old story that he had personally witnessed.

For those men to tell what they saw was not faith. For them, it was a direct observation. But for anyone who heard them, and for those of us who read what the apostles wrote, it is faith because it is circumstantial evidence. They communicated what they saw. Our information is second hand, therefore circumstantial, and therefore faith that is backed up by the testimony, by the inner witness, of the Holy Spirit of God. 

I am persuaded the arrival on the scene of the Holy Spirit of God, to indwell the apostles, to then indwell and empower all believers, includes the verification of the Gospel by corroborating what the apostles declared to a lost and dying world. The witness of the men who had seen it all was backed up by the Spirit of God.

Once the Word of God had been completed, and the apostles were no longer on the scene to declare what they had personally witnessed, the Scripture they left behind replaced them as the witness to the truth of all that Jesus Christ said and did, and why He did what He did. Again, the Spirit of God bore witness to the truth of God’s Word. And so it is in our day.

We are still in that same era. The Spirit of God indwells us, empowers us, illuminates our understanding, and bears witness to the truth we proclaim that is now found in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. That is what persuades you that the Gospel message you hear is valid, the Christian’s testimony of your need of Christ is accurate, and that portion of God’s Word you have read is correct.

There is no suggestion whatsoever in the Gospel that anyone risks anything like a leap of faith. A leap of faith is no faith at all. What God seeks from sinners is a consideration of the facts that are supported by an abundance of circumstantial evidence. 

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” 

Isaiah 1.18.

How can your scarlet sins become as white as snow? How can the red like crimson sins become as wool? That is what happens when the sinner, considering the claims of Christ that are found in the Bible, and responding to the circumstantial evidence presented in the Bible and corroborated by the Spirit of God who convinces you that what you hear, what you read, is true ....

Oh, I’m sorry. The Spirit of God has not worked in your mind and heart to convince you that Jesus saves from sin? You have not been so persuaded that the Lord Jesus Christ is ready to receive sinners? To receive you? Then there is no hope for you, and you must die in your sins.

However, if the Spirit of God corroborates the Gospel message, and you recognize the truth of it and your need to trust Christ, then you must fly to Christ. There is no time to waste. Today is the day of salvation, and now is the accepted time.

__________

[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 706.

[2] Ibid.

[3] John 13.33, 36-37

[4] D. A. Carson, The Gospel According To John (PNTC), (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), page 528.

[5] Reinecker, page 253.

[6] Numbers 23.19; Psalm 19.9; 119.160; Jeremiah 10.10; 42.5; Matthew 22.16; Mark 12.14; John 1.9; 3.33; 7.28; 8.14, 16, 26; 17.3; 19.35; 21.24; Romans 3.4; 2 Corinthians 1.18; 1 Thessalonians 1.9; Titus 1.2; 1 John 5.20; Revelation 3.7, 14; 6.10; 15.3; 16.7; 19.2, 9, 11; 21.5; 22.6

[7] Numbers 35.30; Deuteronomy 17.6-7; Joshua 24.22; Ruth 4.9-11; Job 10.17; Isaiah 8.2; 43.9-12; 44.8-9; Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44; Matthew 18.15-20; Luke 24.46-48; John 5.31; Acts 1.8; 2.32; 3.15; 5.32; 10.39-40; 13.31; 2 Corinthians 13.1; 1 Thessalonians 2.10; 1 Timothy 5.19; 6.12; Hebrews 10.28; 1 John 4.1; 5.7-9; Revelation 1.1; 2.2

[8] Let me suggest that Thomas was not indwelt by the Spirit of God on this occasion, because of his refusal to accept the testimony of his colleagues. The Spirit indwelt him following the events of John 20.26-28.

[9] Acts 1.26

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