2016-5-15 The Helper

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          May 15, 2016

“The Helper”
Text: John 14:15-17

Today we arrive at a blessed Christian Sabbath: Pentecost.  On this day in the Church year, we celebrate the Holy Spirit—promised by Jesus a number of times and delivered that first Pentecost after Jesus returned to Heaven.  Hence, Pentecost ranks equal with Christmas and Easter as annual testimonies to the work of God in our world—and especially in His redeemed people.  We cannot list and learn today everything there is to know about the Holy Spirit, but we can get a good representative sample from today’s text and elsewhere.  Let us then learn somewhat of the Spirit today from God’s Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, is the Helper.  This word (and title) translated here as Helper (Greek parakletos [paraklhtoV]) is various translated as Conforter, Counselor, and Advocate, to name but three, but my favorite translation is the one given in our English Standard Version.[1]  The Holy Spirit, together with the Father and with Jesus Christ, the Son, is God.  He is no impersonal force; we cannot (and must not) refer to the Spirit as it.  He is always He; He is both personal and divine.[2]  God gives His Holy Spirit, and we celebrate this fact this day, as the new-birthright of God’s New Covenant people.  The Spirit is, in fact, God with us in this present age.  This One is Who we celebrate today.  Let us see now how the Helper helps.

First, the Holy Spirit is the truth (1 John 5:6), just as Jesus Himself is the truth (John 14:6)—and the Apostle John, led by the Spirit, refers repeatedly to the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth.  He enables our souls to receive God’s Word, and He quickens God’s Word to our souls.  That is, God causes His Word to make us alive in Christ and burn with holy flame for Him.  Because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, He never leads us astray.  His leading always is consistent with His Word.  He will not lead us into error, nor will He lead in ways contrary to His Word.  Moreover, the Spirit leads us into God’s providential best for us.  Sometimes we may struggle to rest in this, but often we look back at the hard places in our lives and see God’s goodness poured upon us—and that in ways we never would know apart from our painful trials.  The Holy Spirit indeed is the Spirit of truth.

Second, the Holy Spirit is forever with us.  What is said of the Godhead generally and of Christ particularly, namely, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” (Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5) also applies particularly to the Holy Spirit.  He is not only alongside us, and that every step of the way, but He also resides within us.  This is good beyond our ability to understand it or to express it.  The Holy Spirit, as is true of Christ (Matthew 28:20), is with us forever.

Third, the Holy Spirit teaches us.  Because the Holy Spirit teaches, we learn cognitively.  We learn Bible verses and Bible truth—either expressly or by reasonable inference—and our minds, through memorization and reasoning, among other cognitive tasks, grasp what the Spirit teaches.  More than this, we learn experientially because the Holy Spirit teaches.  He applies Scripture to our life settings.  We walk the life of faith in Christ over increasingly long time, and we find (and rejoice) that the Spirit has been teaching us various things while we walked.  By His power we gave and received forgiveness.  By His power we noticed His goodness in very subtle ways—ways we would have missed without the Spirit’s help in noting them.  He is our teacher—and a wise, patient teacher at that.

Fourth, the Holy Spirit reminds us.  Catherine Marshall, in her book The Helper, devotes an entire chapter to this ministry of the Spirit, entitled “He Is Our Remembrancer.”[3]  The Holy Spirit helps us to remember Scripture; hence, we see another reason why Scripture intake is so vital to our soul’s health in Jesus Christ.  We cannot remember what we never have known.  Not only does the Spirit help us remember Scripture, but He also helps us remember His previous ministry in our lives—and as we note His work in our previous Christian experience, we recall by His work the thing needful to be recalled today (e.g., God provided in times past, and He will provide today).  The Spirit even reminds us of ordinary things—such as where the car keys lie, where the insurance policy lies, and other such things.  The Spirit also causes us to remember how incomplete we were before meeting Christ—and that remembrance not only holds us faithful in our walk with Jesus, but it also gives strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.  The Holy Spirit reminds us of all things, whereof we indeed are glad.

Fifth, the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus Christ.  He glorifies not Himself, but He ever lives to glorify Christ.  The Spirit makes real the things of Christ to us; the testimony about Jesus was mere verbiage until the Holy Spirit worked in our lives, and by that work we embraced the reality of Christ’s existence and the veracity of the testimony concerning Him.  This is precious indeed, but there is more.

The Holy Spirit also empowers our testimony about Christ.  He gives to us, and through us to our hearers, knowledge of Jesus.  When we speak of Jesus to others, He makes our speech clear to our hearers—and that despite any actual or perceived bumbling on our part.  The Spirit also give us love and compassion toward our hearers, and He makes our hearers to feel that love and compassion.  He also gives sweet, holy boldness to testify concerning Him.  Whenever we feel weak, or inadequate, or unprepared to testify, there the Spirit comes with His strength and we testify capably and winsomely.  As a result of all of these ministries of the Spirit to testify to Christ, He often gives to our hearers progress in or toward Christ.  The Spirit also often gives to us the joy of seeing others brought farther in Jesus—even all the way into Him.

Sixth, the Holy Spirit convinces.  Later in this final extended discourse of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus teaches that the Spirit will convince (or convict) of sin, righteousness, and judgment.  We cannot in our own power persuade anyone concerning these things, but the Spirit of the living God does this and more.  As the Spirit convinces us, we become convinced of our undone state apart from the Lord, and we become convinced as well of our need of Christ’s rescue.  The Spirit also convinces us to conform to Scripture’s moral commandments—not in order to earn salvation, for we cannot earn salvation by this route, but in order to please the Lord in every way and to reflect Him to Church and world.

What a gift the Lord has given to us this day—and every day—in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.  Let us then say, in our lives, families, church (and Church), and world, “Welcome, Holy Spirit.”

AMEN.

[1] It is also the favored translation of Catherine Marshall (1914-83) in her book The Helper (New York: Avon, 1978), a forty-day devotional on the Holy Spirit.  This book rises from a study on the Holy Spirit co-authored with her husband, Peter Marshall (1902-49), and published in the July 1945 issue of Today, a Presbyterian monthly devotional magazine.

[2] The Holy Spirit exhibits personality.  For two proofs among many, note that He can be grieved and that He can be resisted.  For proof of the Spirit’s divinity, note His presence and agency in creation—and further note the Spirit’s attributes (among others) of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence.  A succinct, yet full, discussion of this occurs in Robert L. Dabney (1820-98), Lectures in Systematic Theology (1878.  Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1972), 193-201.

[3] Marshall, The Helper, 87-89.

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