John 16:5-11: The Supreme Counsel for the prosecution.

“5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, “Where are you going?” Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” NIV

I believe I once read somewhere that the great and effective Victorian preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, used to say to himself,every time he was entering the pulpit, ”I believe in the Holy Ghost.” He knew where his strength lay.

Today’s passage says at least three things to us:

  1. Have confidence in the Holy Spirit. He has a job to do, and He will do it. You can be sure of that: ”When he comes, he’ll expose the error of the godless world’s view of sin, righteousness, and judgment: He’ll show them that their refusal to believe in me is their basic sin; that righteousness comes from above, where I am with the Father, out of their sight and control; that judgment takes place as the ruler of this godless world is brought to trial and convicted.” (The Message) He causes people to see fundamental spiritual realities. Believe in His presence and activity in the world, even though you do not see Him. He is at work. You may or may not be a preacher, but every Christian should share Spurgeon’s confidence in the Holy Spirit.
  2. Don’t confuse your role with that of the Holy Spirit. It is not your work to change people. Some  folks seem to see it as their life’s assignment to put everybody else right. If that’s you, you are wrong! Christian wife, you are not asked to do the Holy Spirit’s work with reference to your unconverted husband. And to any Christian husbands with unregenerate spouses, it’s exactly the same message to you. Christian parents, much as you love your children and want to see them in God’s Kingdom, you can’t push them in by force. You can’t badger and bully them into submission. This is not the God appointed way. Please get this: it is not your job to bring another human being under conviction of sin. This task is definitely the domain of the third Person of the Trinity. It’s not the case that we have nothing to do. We have already seen the ‘double testimony’ in (15:26, 27). Jesus said about the Spirit, ”he will testify about me”. But He went on to say, ”you also must testify…” We do have to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in pointing to Jesus, but He is supremely ‘the Counsel for the prosecution.’ Spirit-filled witness is your job; conviction of sin is His unique work.
  3. Look for what the Holy Spirit is doing in every situation you find yourself in. He is working in people and situations where it may appear to the outward eye that nothing promising is happening. Only this morning, I heard a testimony given by a highly influential pastor. He told a story of how as a youth he was totally reprobate. He said he loved his sin. But then his life began to cave in. A friend invited him to a Christian meeting. After attending for a while he bought himself a Bible (‘The Authorised Version’, because that was the one in use in that particular church!) and it began to come alive to him. He was soundly converted. Again, as you read the Book of ‘Acts’, you get the impression time after time that the church is playing ‘catch up’ with the Holy Spirit. They are discovering what He is doing, and joining Him in it. That makes for effective mission. As someone said, the Holy Spirit is ”President” and not just ”resident”.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as I understand you here, I believe you are saying that I; that we who make up your church today, are in a more advantaged position than were the disciples who lived with you during your earthly life. This is a remarkable, mysterious truth, but we have your Holy Spirit within us. How wonderful. Thank you Lord for your abundant provision.