Posted On March 6, 2015

Michael Horton – The Spirit's Ongoing Ministry: Fulfilling Christ's Pledge in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16)

by | Mar 6, 2015 | Biblical Worldview, Uncategorized

The Father spoke in the Son to create the world, and yet it was the Spirit who brought about within the unformed cosmos and thus created that ordered realm of which they spoke. Even in common grace, as Calvin noted, wherever goodness, truth, and beauty flourish in this fallen world, it is because the Spirit grants wisdom, health, and other benefits that we do not deserve.8 Thus, even in the old creation the Spirit is at work, holding up the columns of the earthly city while bringing the heavenly Jerusalem into this age.

In the new creation, the Spirit inwardly convicts us of God’s judgment and convinces us of God’s mercies in Christ. Jesus’ discourse in the upper room recorded in John 14 – 16 highlights the way in which the Spirit will mediate (and now mediates) Christ’s prophetic, priestly, and kingly reign. Christ now reigns over us in exalted grace and glory, and by his Spirit he also reigns within us, bringing us from death to life, answering the triune Creator, “Here I am.”

First of all, the Spirit’s ongoing ministry is judicial. The Spirit is sent not only to announce the coming judgment, but to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment,” with unbelief in Christ as the focus of that conviction (Jn 16:8). We see the empirical effects of this promise in Peter’s Pentecost sermon—which characterizes the spread of the gospel throughout Acts—when the apostle’s hearers were “cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Ac 2:37). The Spirit will not speak another word, but will inwardly renew, convicting and persuading us of our guilt and Christ’s righteousness.

Second, as the Son is the sole embodiment of all truth, the Spirit will be sent “to guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). The Father speaks and the Son is the content (Word) that he speaks, both hypostatically (eternal begetting) and energetically (the gospel). It is always the Spirit’s role, we have seen, to bring about the perlocutionary effect of that speech within creatures. The Spirit is not the content, but the regenerating source of faith in Christ. The Son did not speak on his own authority during his earthly ministry, but delivered the word of his Father. In the same way, Jesus explained to his disciples that the Spirit “will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (Jn 16:13). The Spirit does not replace Jesus, but unites us to our heavenly head. Disrupting our ordinary history, the Spirit inserts us into the new creation.9

Thus, the Spirit is not a resource that we can use, but is no less than the sovereign God who claims us for himself along with the Father and the Son. In the upper room, Jesus teaches that the Spirit will come not to confirm our pious experience or to help us to realize the ethical kingdom, but to convict the world of guilt and righteousness and judgment. Of course, the Spirit’s coming has its profound effects in our experience and ethical action, but the focus of his work is to convince us of our guilt and of Christ’s imputed righteousness and to lead us into all truth as it is in Christ. Although the Spirit preaches Christ rather than himself, Jesus Christ’s personal history must be for us a distant and fading memory, except for the Spirit’s work of ushering us into the courtroom where even now Christ pleads on behalf of his witnesses on earth and prepares a place for them.

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