Today, we will continue what we started yesterday, what scholars call “The Upper Room Discourse.” Many people believe that the teaching of Jesus from John 13-17 were all taught to the disciples the night before he died. (They were in the upper room of a house, hence the name.) When Jesus speaks, he encourages the disciples to not be troubled. Though he will not be with them in person, he promises something else. What does he promise?
A counselor. (v16) The Spirit of Truth. (v. 17)
Jesus says that the Spirit will come, who will counsel the disciples and guide them into all truth.
What is the Holy Spirit?
This is a question that has perplexed theologians in Churches around the world for quite some time. Jesus says here that he will send the Spirit, and that he will come to be with his disciples. Is he the Spirit? No, because it’s clear in John that there is a difference between Jesus and the Spirit. And that same difference is found in verse 26 in regards to the Spirit and the Father. So the Spirit is something other than the Father and the Son. This have led some to conclude that the Spirit is a distinct person, being, or entity, but this is problematic, because in many ways the Spirit is described in non-personal terms. (Spirit comes from the Greek word πνευμα, meaning wind, breath or spirit.) It is poured out, given, and we are baptized into it. However, at the same time, the Book of Acts, and here in John, Jesus and his early followers listen to the Spirit deciding things and guiding and teaching.
So what is the Spirit? Another name for God or Jesus, or the power of God in action, or even a Person?
I don’t know.
For a long time, the words “I don’t know” made me terribly uncomfortable. They made me feel weak, like I wasn’t living up to my potential. (In truth, being a nerd AND a member of the CoG, I was getting social AND theological pressure to know everything.) However, I’ve come to know that I CAN’T know completely; the language about the Spirit is not about knowing and controlling but about submitting, relating and embracing. When the Spirit guides the disciples in the book of Acts, they submit, not ask what is guiding them. When Paul is encouraging his brothers and sisters to love in Corinth he writes “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” When the Spirit comes, the Spirit is coming from God and in the name of Jesus. Do I trust Jesus enough to allow whatever the Spirit is to effect me in such a way that the Spirit changes me?
As you read this language in John about Spirit and what the Spirit will do, don’t get lost in the weeds asking questions about what the Spirit is. At some point, there can be a time and place for that discussion. But today, right here and now, ask God to send that Spirit in the name of Christ into your life. When Jesus breathed on his disciples (John 20:22) and gave them his Spirit, when fire fell in Acts 2 and they were refilled in Acts 4, those disciples were more concerned about how God was going to help them live tomorrow. If you need the power of God on a Monday morning (or evening or night) what you need is to say with me…
“Lord I don’t know everything, but I know that I need your Spirit.”
And that is a prayer God will answer in the name of Jesus.