Reading: John 1:15-18; 14:25-27; 15:26-27; 16:7-14.
A brief preliminary word by way of catching up and forming a link with what has gone before. In the previous message in speaking about the Holy Spirit in relation to the glorified Christ we took the four references at the beginning of John's gospel to the Holy Spirit.
The basis is in John 1, which brings into view the main objective of the Holy Spirit which is sonship. John the Baptist said, "I knew Him not but... upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending... that this is the Son of God" (John 1:31-34). The Spirit is therefore introduced to us in John in relation to sonship, and whilst the sonship of the Lord Jesus is of a unique character, something quite distinct and peculiar to Him, yet the fact remains that the Spirit of Sonship has come to all believers, and it is the object of the Holy Spirit to make us mature sons, because we are sons of God, crying "Abba, Father". He has sent His Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Holy Spirit in John 1 brings the end into view, that is, sonship.
The following three references to the Holy Spirit are aspects of the Holy Spirit's work in relation to the foundation of the Christian life.
1) In John 3 we get "born of the Spirit" and in John 4 He moves from the general to the specific, from the sovereignty of the Spirit down to the specific reality of being definite vessels.
2) John 4 brings into view vessels chosen for the definite residence of the Holy Spirit: "In you springing up as a well of water" (John 4:14).
3) John 7:37-39 is the third of this triad and is the outworking of that. There is birth, then residence, and then testimony, and then the outflowing of Divine energy through the Spirit.
Now another triad in John 14, 15 and 16. A quite clearly marked change is seen in this other series of references to the Holy Spirit, which are somewhat technical. Some details are necessary before we come to them. There is this distinctive mark of change in the second triad of references that we move from symbols to direct teaching. In John 3 wind, in John 4 water, and in John 7 water as a river, all symbols of the Holy Spirit. In the later chapters, the second half of the gospel, there are no longer symbols or metaphors, but direct teaching, but "Now when He the Spirit is come...", a precise statement of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. The change has its reasons. In the first three the Lord was dealing with unbelievers, the unsaved, whilst in these last three with disciples, we come from a place of metaphor for the Lord is now dealing with people in a faith relation to Christ. We move from the elementary to where it can be stated plainly. We are able to understand the values of this particular statement when we understand the people to whom it was said. Things uttered here cannot be uttered to those who are not in full relationship, they could not be said to the unbelieving, they demand a faith basis, for it is yet a prospective utterance.
The references in John's gospel were to a time not yet arrived; they are looking on to it. "I will send...". For us that day has arrived; we are not necessarily waiting as these were, but where we are, it is available and ought to be our position. A faith relationship to the Lord Jesus is necessary. Given that, beyond that there need be no delay, no waiting. What is it that is ours by the Holy Spirit? In the second half of John you are dealing with the collective. Up to chapter 10 it deals with individuals. The collective is the stage marked by our references. A further stage with regard to the Holy Spirit is reached in John 20: the corporate. From John 10-17 the Lord is dealing with a company, but when you get to chapter 20, you are on resurrection ground and the Lord is coming in then and making of a company a collection, one Body, the Corporate, and says, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit", the blessings and values which are available to believers, to children of God, on the basis of possessing the Holy Spirit.
John 14 speaks of a very simple truth, but of great value, so great that to be without the realisation and enjoyment of it means to be in a very unsatisfactory spiritual state, to be in a state of weakness which ought not to be. The great value of inward illumination is that He is IN you, though the world cannot know or see this, but "in that day ye shall know that I am in you and ye in Me" (John 14:17-20). The two things are set over against one another: on the one hand ignorance, darkness, blindness, a state of incapacity, "the world cannot", and on the other hand: He shall be in you. That great blessing is ours NOW by the appropriation of faith. The value and importance of that being ours cannot be estimated; without that we are in a state of hopeless weakness in relation to the Lord. It must be repeated with emphasis that one of the greatest needs of the Lord's people today lies in this very direction. If we could range the whole state of the things that go by the Lord's Name and understand why they are so unsatisfactory to His mind, going from one swing of the pendulum to the other, we should no doubt find this is the explanation. All the children of the Lord have become part of a great system, differing from the illumination and control of the Spirit in their own hearts; this goes to the root of the matter. On the one hand this means ignorance, incompleteness, inability to take spiritual responsibility, openness to all that comes along of error, falsehood, and deception if it has a semblance of truth - carried about by every wind of doctrine and cunning craftiness of men. All THAT is because of the absence of inward illumination of the Holy Spirit and there is much more than that.
Turning from the unhappy results of this state, let us view the other side. It is true for you and me, the Lord has made present provision by giving the Holy Spirit, He has given an inward illumination on all matters which concern Himself, and real spiritual strength, therefore as a real personal, inward, living knowledge of the Spirit and nothing can substitute that. There is a sense of the tremendous need of these days that the Lord should have virile, strong, and spiritually competent children, not a company composed of those who have very little real knowledge of Himself. They need to distinguish between satanic things and those that are of God. To send men and women out who will not be easily caught in this, but will be able to take responsibility for other lives to hold and help, and keep them in the ways of life, it is necessary that the Lord has those who have the Holy Spirit in direction and inward illumination.
Note, this is the first thing the Lord says to those in spiritual relation to Himself; not that it is necessary only in an advanced stage in spiritual life, not that you must grow to a certain point and then become possessed of this inward illumination. They should be able to discern that this is theirs from the beginning, and be able to say, "The Lord has been speaking to me, has been showing this to me." That is spiritual illumination and it is an inward thing. To many of you this is not strange, but something very real and which you are enjoying. But this message is not for you, but to those in a state of things the opposite to it, who represent today an appalling state of things, whose whole Christian life is something external to themselves and bound up in a systematic order which is opposed to spiritual life. To them to be illumined by the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, to hear the voice of the Spirit is an unknown thing. They know not a word. The system nakedly viewed is an atrocity from this point of view. At their most solemn celebration, at the elevation of the Host they will be groaning on their faces and ten minutes later may have knives drawn to stab one another! That is a system, you may modify things, you may get to much higher levels than that, but it is still external, outward. The only way to experience illumination of the Spirit and true sonship, the only thing to bring us to the spiritual level of God's heart, is to walk as Christ walked in the anointing of the Holy Spirit. That is a present value for you and me, these things have already been procured by the Lord, and given we stand on right ground, we can have them by faith appropriation now.
We do not come into them 'willy-nilly' or automatically. We have got to recognise and come in on those grounds on which God has promised and provided then. He desires something on His side before He can impart them, God has provided them on the ground of the cross, and one of the values of the Holy Spirit is inward illumination. How is that made good to us? By faith's appropriation of all that was done on the cross, by saying, "Lord, you have provided, and I stand on the ground of His cross, and appropriate that." You will find that works. You need a definite appropriation of each thing. You begin to know the Lord in this way, but a definite transaction is needed first.
There is all the difference between having and enjoying, between having and drawing, between having and living in continuous and abiding knowledge; this is a matter of the Holy Spirit making real all things in our experience.
John 15:26-27 shows that inward illumination is the first necessity, and the second is the Spirit's witness to Christ. The question is 'How shall the testimony of Jesus be maintained?' This is a very big and important question, There is only one way and this is it: "He shall bear witness of Me". This again is the Holy Spirit's work in believers, then the outward thing follows: "Ye shall bear witness of Me", the Holy Spirit is not going to bear witness apart from an instrument. The witness they bear is because the witness has already been born in them, the Holy Spirit does it because the witness is in us. That was at Pentecost and after.
What is the ministry of the church? It is one of all believers, not of a special class. It is the maintaining of the testimony of Jesus through the disciples. HOW? In no other way and on no other ground than that the Holy Spirit has borne witness of Him in believers.
We will see how it is possible for every believer to have a witness, to be in the ministry of every age and dispensation. That is our calling. What constitutes us ministers of Jesus Christ? Simply that the Holy Spirit bears witness of Him in us. What is the witness of the Holy Spirit to Him? That comprises everything. Can you range the content of the Lord, all the values and virtues in Him? Can you catalogue those things that are in Christ for us? You will never range the content of the Lord Jesus, but there is that in Him that will range every detail of our need from A to Z. Whatever it is in relation to God for us, you will find it is already in Christ for you. In every emergency, any position of service, you will find it is already provided in Him. As you go on in the Spirit, He is showing you Jesus Christ in His manifold, many-sided, inexhaustible provision. Some new position arises, a new crisis, and the Holy Spirit must show how Christ meets that need. That is the witness of the Spirit; the Holy Spirit testifying in us what He is, that is the testimony of Jesus witnessed in us by the Holy Spirit. That is not years ago, but day by day and year by year, you find there is something of the Lord Jesus which you never saw before. Today I have a Christ right up-to-date, who I never knew before. He supplies all my need.
The testimony of Jesus has resolved itself today into a lot of mental stuff instead of the real thing, but there is a simple explanation. The testimony is to be maintained not by preaching facts, but by the testimony that He has done it in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and bearing witness in us.
Notice how wide a range is brought in in John 16:7-14; the world ministry of the glorified Christ as witnessed and carried out by the Holy Spirit. Every bit of this statement relates to Christ, and the Holy Spirit carried out His world mission. "The prince of this world is judged." Who did it? Christ. He convicts of sin, righteousness, and judgment. "They believed not on Me.""He bore our sins." If you do not believe you are convicted, you are under sin, but there is no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. If you are not in Christ it is the Spirit's work to convict; to convict of righteousness "because I go to the Father", to convict in respect of righteousness. This is another and very blessed aspect, the question of righteousness is settled if Christ gets through to the Father, if the question of righteousness was the purpose of His coming, then God requires righteousness. There was none righteous, no righteousness found in any, but the Lord Jesus provided righteousness and satisfied the Father, and because of that He got through to the Father. No unrighteousness gets through, but He was altogether righteous and in Christ God has found all He wants. He has gone to the Father and the whole question of righteousness is settled by Him, the Man in the glory.
On the other side there is judgment, a terrible condemnation to the sinner convicted. Upon what does judgment rest? This: that you are of the same company as the devil. You have not accepted Christ, so you come under judgment, and have fear of death and judgment. That fear has gone for ever for those in Christ. There is no judgment in Christ, no fear of judgment in Christ, and the fear of death is gone for ever. But the Holy Spirit says if we are not in Christ we are under the same judgment as the devil lies under. God never created man for that. Hell was never brought into being for that, but for the devil, but there is an awful possibility of our being there by alliance with the devil. By nature we are all children of wrath because of that sinful alliance of the devil brought about by Adam; all the children of Adam are in that alliance, he made alliance with the devil and broke his alliance with God. But Christ has come and borne wrath in our place. He came to deliver us from wrath, that we may escape judgment, and the Holy Spirit is here to tell us that if we are not in Christ there is inescapable judgment. He is here to tell us all that Christ has done; He has borne sin, therefore we need not bear it. He has provided righteousness that we might come to God, for He has gone through. He has delivered us from judgment by bearing it Himself, by what He has done by His cross. Righteousness and judgment are the work of the Holy Spirit, but if you are out of Christ, the sin question lies at your door. You are responsible, you have to answer to God face to face. Are you ready to do that?
The Holy Spirit is pointing the way to One who has provided righteousness and swallowed up your judgment in Himself on the cross. The Holy Spirit bears witness to heaven, to Him who has done all, the glorified Christ. But see what is provided for those who seek and those who ask. You could find no better illustration than Luke 11:11: "And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone?" You say no man unless he was a fiend would do such a thing; no one in ordinary loving parenthood could do that. "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13).
Ask... seek... knock. All that is related to the Holy Spirit and we need to know and recognise that we cannot go on without Him.
May we come to the place in which the Holy Spirit shall individually, collectively, and corporately be displayed in us.