Last week we celebrated Pentecost, the birthday of the church. Pentecost is the fulfillment of the promise given to the disciples by Jesus. Jesus promised he would send the Holy Spirit, AND, as promised, the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles in Jerusalem, and they were empowered by God to, as Jesus commanded them in the Great Commission, to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Did you notice Jesus says, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”? That’s what we call the Trinity. Today is Trinity Sunday.
We celebrate Trinity Sunday because God is what we call Triune. Did you know that the word “Trinity” is not even in the Bible? And yet, thru history, God has revealed himself to us in and through three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one, but God is also three.
How else can we describe this Triune nature? One way is to look at the chemical structure H2O, known as water. Water can be vapor, liquid, or a solid, but the chemical structure doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is its behavior or function, not its structure.
Another example is to look at me – I never really thought of myself as “triune,” but I suppose you could. For example, I am a brother, a father, and a grandfather. My physical characteristics haven’t changed, but my function, or behavior, or my interaction with others, changes depending upon whether I am brother, father, or grandfather.
I become a completely different person when I am around my older sisters. I revert back to my old “little brother” self! My kids are always amazed at how different I am. And yet, I am still the same person.
The Triune God has been eternally present since the beginning. Let’s look at the first verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:1: In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth. In the English, we read “God,” which in English is a singular noun. But in the Hebrew, the word elohim is plural. This is recognition of the plural nature of the one God. In the verse 2, we read, “… the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” There’s the Holy Spirit!
Another example, Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…” The “us” in this verse is not God using a “royal we,” or God with some heavenly committee of angels, or anything like that.
Again, the Hebrew is elohim, which is plural. It is God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit – the Triune God. We know that Jesus is there, since in the beginning of John’s gospel, he so beautifully talks about Christ, “the Word,” being there at the beginning of creation.
Let’s talk about God the Father. Today, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, we can call ourselves adopted children of God. This is huge. In the Old Testament, when God is referred to as “Father,” it is with Messianic references. These are found in the Psalms and in Isaiah.
Other times, God is referred to have a relationship “like a father,” but never directly as “father.”
We pray the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday, and it opens with, “Our Father…” Again, this is a most amazing thing. Because of Christ, we can claim a position, our inheritance (Ephesians 1), as children of God.
I should mention something very important here – God is not a man. Sorry, guys, God is not a man. God is God. The issue is not gender, but the person of God, and his parental relationship with us. The key thing is we can call ourselves children of God.
God is not some distant uncaring deity, but someone who wants to have a personal relationship with us. And, we have that relationship with our Father God because of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Over the past several years, many folks have tried to use what we call “inclusive” language when referring to God. For example, instead of “himself,” people will say “Godself.” Or instead of saying “God changed his mind,” they will say “God changed God’s mind!”
Another thing that folks might try to do is, instead of calling the Triune God “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” they use the words, “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.” This is not inaccurate, but it removes the personhood of God. It also puts limits on the activities of an infinite God.
Finally, and we will get to this later, it sometimes causes us to call the Holy Spirit “it.” This, my friends, is a definite no-no.
I want to turn now to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. As I noted earlier in the Genesis passage, like God the Father and God the Son, God the Holy Spirit was there at the beginning of creation. In fact, we find the Holy Spirit active throughout the Old Testament. During the Exodus, the Holy Spirit guided the Israelites in the wilderness. He also is seen interacting with Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Elijah, and others
On the other hand, while the Holy Spirit interacted with Samson, Saul, and David, he left them at times! That’s the significant difference between how the Holy Spirit works in the Old vs. the New Testaments. In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is seen “coming upon” these folks, instead of “being with” them, as we find later in the New Testament. We have Christ to thank for that. We know from the Great Commission, and elsewhere, that God, namely Jesus, is with us until the end of the age.
Let’s look at our passage for today, at verses 5-7: But now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things.7 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.
These verses in John are from what is called the Last Discourse – it’s during the Last Supper, the night before Jesus is to be executed. He tells the disciples he is leaving, and of course they are filled with grief!
But what do we see in verse seven? 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.
It’s for their own good he is going away! What does he mean by that?
Remember, folks, Jesus is fully human, fully divine. In our passage this morning, he is at the end of his earthly, human ministry. The human Jesus was limited by time and space. He couldn’t be everywhere at once.
We know that his power could be manifested elsewhere, like when he healed the Centurion’s servant, but Jesus was a man, in a human body. But before we begin to look at this as a disadvantage, let us remember that his humanity is what saves us. Human enough to suffer with us, but he was still God, and is able to save us.
During his ministry, Jesus was the center of attention. But the real work was about to begin, and he needed to leave. If he didn’t leave, the disciples would continue to look to Jesus for the answers and everything else. They needed to grow in their maturity and confidence
This could only happen if Jesus left, and the Advocate came. Some translations say Comforter, Helper, or Counselor. The Advocate needed to come – the Holy Spirit. In the Greek, the word is paraklatos, which means, “one who walks alongside.” Jesus had walked alongside the disciples for three years, and now he was sending someone else to walk alongside – another Advocate.
Certainly God will get his work done regardless, but it would have difficult for the gospel to spread, unless Jesus left, and sent the Holy Spirit.
So, what about this third person, the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit acts, and can be acted upon, just like a person.
What are some of these things?
- He speaks – in Revelation chapter 2, Jesus says, “Let him who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says.”
- He intercedes – In Romans, Paul talks about how the Spirit intercedes for us in our prayers
- He leads – In Acts 8, the Spirit tells Peter to go the Ethiopian’s chariot.
- He commands – later in Acts, the Spirit prevents Paul and his companions from entering a particular territory
- He can be insulted – In Hebrews, the author talks about the penalties for insulting the Spirit of grace
- He is God:
- He is eternal (Hebrews 9)
- He is powerful (Luke 1)
- He is everywhere present (Psalm 139)
- He is all-knowing (1 Corinthians)
- And he is called God (2 Cor)
We can also learn about him by looking further at our text today, verses 8-9: When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me;
If we are reading Scripture, or listening to a sermon, or having a discussion with a Christian friend, and we feel an “ouch,” a slap in the face, a swift foot in a particular place, or we find ourselves knocked down spiritually, that’s the Holy Spirit. He is convicting us of our sin.
Jesus continues, verses 10-11: 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.
The disciples didn’t know it, but the next day Jesus would be executed on a cross – their world would come to an end. But the righteousness of God would be revealed three days later through the Resurrection. Righteousness would prevail, and the ruler of the world, Satan, would stand condemned.
Let’s finish our passage, verses 12-15: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
Jesus, God himself, could have said more to the disciples, but they would not have been able to handle it. Instead, he sends the Holy Spirit to us, to give us the truth in doses that we can handle. For example, God (that is, the Holy Spirit) waited until I was 49 to tell me to go to Seminary, or at least that’s when I finally listened to him and responded. Twenty-five years earlier, I would not have been able to handle it.
The Holy Spirit knows what we can handle.
That is another good reason why you need to be here each week so you can hear what he has told me to pass along to you!
Verses 14 and 15 are simply amazing: He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
The reason the Holy Spirit gives us all the truth is not for our benefit, it’s to bring glory to Christ – all Scripture, all revelation, all discussion, everything we do is to bring glory to Christ. And the way it is done is that the Holy Spirit takes from Christ, and gives to us
All that belongs to the Father is given to Christ. Christ, the Son of God, gives it to the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit then gives it to us, but only when God knows we are ready. And when we receive it, we are to give glory to Christ. When we “get something” either in a study, or in a sermon, or from reading, that’s the power of the Holy Spirit, coming from Christ, to bring glory to Christ.
I need to finish, and I want to make a very important point.
Let’s go back to last week’s events, at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came down on the disciples, and Peter, powered by the Holy Spirit, gave a phenomenal speech. This is the same guy, remember, who, about seven weeks earlier, had denied Christ three times after being identified by a servant girl!
Now, what do you suppose would have happened if Peter had given that speech a day earlier? Nothing! Chances are, he would not have been able to speak at all. Remember, they were hiding from the authorities! Yet once he was filled with God’s Spirit, there was no stopping him!
That’s the power of the Holy Spirit, there at the creation, “one who walks alongside!”
At the end of Peter’s speech, look at what happened, Acts 2:37-38: When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Do you think it was Peter who convicted those folks of their sin? No, it was God himself, revealed to us in and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and sisters, that power is available to you, right this very moment. If you have received Christ into your heart, that third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, lives in you. God himself is in you
The creator of the universe, the one who parted the Red Sea, the third person of the Trinity, lives in us!
This is huge, and most of us are unwilling or unable to fathom it.
Just accept it, my friends. God himself dwells in you, through the saving grace of Christ.
Let him walk alongside you.
And if necessary, let him carry you every so often
On the other hand, when he convicts you, humbly accept his counsel, admonishment, or his swift kick
Let the truth, all the truth come into your heart, again through the Holy Spirit, sent by Christ.
God himself is in you, in the third person of the Trinity.
If you have not accepted Christ as your Savior and Lord, I invite you to do so now.