Sermon Commentary for Sunday, May 19, 2024

John 15:26-27, 16:4b-15 Commentary

The Holy Spirit does the work of God, just like the Father and the Son, because the Spirit is God. Though the Spirit has always been at work in the world in the ways that Jesus describes here, there is something unique about the time after Jesus’s death and resurrection. After all, Jesus uses the future tense to describe all of the leading-into-truth that the Spirit undertakes after Jesus returns to the Father. This is why a gospel passage like this can be a Pentecost text.

As we remember the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon us, we remember that it was not just a one-time event but the beginning of the way new disciples of Jesus Christ would be commissioned. With Jesus’s human body in heaven, God the Spirit is the one moving among us, calling us to follow the Jesus way, making the words of a Messiah who lived thousands of years ago come to life in our hearts and minds, convicting us of faith, equipping us to be modern day disciples.

In other words, we live in the time where the future actions that Jesus says the Spirit will undertake are being undertaken—present tense.

In verses 8-10 Jesus lays it out. The Spirit “will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…” Proving the world wrong isn’t just a “Gotcha!” scheme where the Spirit revels in smashing its opponents in their false ideas. The Greek word is elenchō, which means bringing to light, exposing or setting forth the truth. In the midst of lies and denials and blatant ignorance, the Spirit of Truth reveals the truth. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament even goes so far as to argue that this word, elenchō, carries with it the purpose of repentance. The Spirit of truth reveals truth so that we can change and turn to God—just as Jesus promises.

So what is the truth that the Spirit brings to light about sin, judgement, and righteousness? Jesus himself is the key. Most commentators I have read on this passage believe each of these three points relate to the Son’s witness while incarnate here on earth. Their interpretation is supported by the rest of Scripture.

First, Jesus was repeatedly rejected by God’s people, not just as a prophet and teacher, but rejected as the Son of God: he came to his own, but his own did not know him. Refusing to believe that he is the Messiah is the sin of unbelief, the sin of rejecting the Saviour of the world. Look at Peter’s powerful sermon in Acts 2. Filled by the Holy Spirit, Peter places the crucified Christ—whom his audience put to death—front and center as the Lord and Messiah. And the people “were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” Peter’s answer is baptism and repentance and the hope that they too will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Second, Jesus’s way of righteousness rubbed all kinds of people the wrong way, from the political authorities to the temple power brokers. Jesus broke the traditions of the law while fulfilling the law of God perfectly, modelling a holiness that was internally rooted but externally visible in all of his interactions. The apostle Paul continuously describes the work of the sanctifying Spirit as connecting us to this same righteous Christ. The Holy Spirit brings Christ to rule in our hearts. We are to walk in step with the Spirit of God and by doing so, the fruit of the Spirit—a life that looks like Jesus’s life—will be descriptors of us. We need the Spirit to do this work because we don’t have Jesus living among us in the way the disciples did. We need the Spirit to connect us to the author and perfector of our faith on his throne in heaven.

Third, Jesus says the Spirit will expose another significant truth: “the ruler of this world has been condemned.” Yes! The Spirit of Truth tells the truth: God has already won. Jesus says this even before he goes to the cross, before he rises eternally alive from the grave. Jesus knows what’s up, where all of this is headed, and why. He knows because this is what the Father, Spirit and he has already committed themselves to. This is what it’s all for. We will be free because our evil dictator’s rule is condemned by our righteous Messiah.

When Peter preached that first Pentecost, the Spirit led him to the Psalmist’s words to describe this freedom. Notice how it’s the same three things Jesus says the Spirit will do: set forth Jesus as the Saviour who is with us, bring to light the way of true righteousness, and bring to light certainty that the evil one is defeated. Because death could not hold him, we now see—through the Spirit—and live with God: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” (Psalm 16 quoted in Acts 2)

Textual Point

Without explicitly saying so, Jesus identifies the disciples (and us) as mini-Advocates. This is helpfully noted in the two closing verses from chapter 15: the Spirit will testify on Jesus’s behalf, and the disciples are also to testify because they have been with Jesus from the beginning. That means that all of the things we have been told to do in regard to Jesus—like listening to him—we are to do with the Spirit as well. Like the Son, the Spirit does not declare anything new but continuously points us to the Triune God because all that the Father has belongs to the Son and Spirit as well.

Having received and witnessed and experienced so much already, the disciples have plenty to testify about to others. As the Spirit continues to do the wondrous works of God among us, we too continue to testify and share what we receive about our great God.

Illustration Idea

We’re not all going to preach like Peter did on that first Pentecost. And yet it’s the same Spirit alive and in us as was with Peter. The same Spirit was with Paul and the prophets in the Old Testament, using our fellow human beings as agents of revelation. Even more profound, it is the same Spirit who was with Jesus as he lived among us, and the same Spirit who hovered over the empty void of creation as the Father created all that exists. The Spirit is the great connector, connecting us to truth, to each other, and to God’s very self across time and space. This reality is what some theologians call Deep Pneumatology. They invite us to listen for the resonance of the Spirit in us and around us—that the Spirit continues to “knock on our senses” as “the particular and concrete cues us to listen to the bigger” truth of God. (From a lecture given by Niels Henrik Gregersen at Regent College in March 2022.)


Preaching Connections: , ,
Biblical Books:

Dive Deeper

This Week:

Spark Inspiration:

Sign Up for Our Newsletter!

Insights on preaching and sermon ideas, straight to your inbox. Delivered Weekly!

Newsletter Signup