Vol. 11 — No. 19 May 10, 1970
But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
In Christ Jesus, who left this earth so that He, together with His Father, could send the Comforter, Fellow Redeemed:
We are living in that age of the world that is characterized by the worldwide activity of the Holy Spirit. That age began on the first Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus, and shall continue until the end of time. Jesus spoke to His disciples of this coming age in the Upper Room and on the way to Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. That was a night of intense sorrow for the disciples, as we heard in the Gospel selection that served as our text last Sunday. The time had come for Jesus to return to His Father. He was about to begin the final phase of His work—suffering and dying, but then arising again and ascending to His Father. The disciples were filled with sorrow because they thought only in terms of His leaving them. They were unable to look beyond that immediate fact, which appeared to them to be such a tragedy. The Lord endeavored to get them to see His leaving in the proper perspective. What was that? This—that His leaving was necessary before the new era, the era of the Holy Ghost, could be ushered in. He said to them: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
Jesus spoke of the Holy Ghost as the Comforter, the Paraclete—literally as the one called to one’s side. He would replace Jesus among them. He would do for them what Jesus had been doing the past three years. During His public ministry the disciples were exposed to all the activity of the Lord Jesus. His public ministry was directed towards the world and towards them. The world was hostile; they had been won from the world and so were receptive. The preaching ministry of the Lord directed against the world—chiefly the unbelieving religious establishment of the Jews, the scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees—was chiefly in the form of reproof, of prosecution, and conviction. The preaching ministry of the Lord among His disciples included reproof when necessary, but was essentially positive—the work of instructing, comforting, encouraging—as the situation demanded. Jesus was about to leave His disciples, but His ministry was to continue. It would be carried on by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. So it is today. We do not have Jesus with us personally. We have the Comforter. He is carrying on the work of Jesus, only on a worldwide basis. Let us examine the implications of this truth more thoroughly, namely, that—
Of the Comforter Jesus said, “And when he is come, he will reprove or convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Jesus then continued to explain just in what way and to what extent the Comforter would make His conviction in these matters. “0f or concerning sin, because or inasmuch, as they do not believe in me.” Now the people of this world say much and write much and argue much over sin. The legislatures of the states and of the country pass laws on what is to be considered right and wrong, the judges are to interpret those laws, and the executive department enforce them. This is big business and frequently involves great public controversy. For example, we have been hearing much about liberalizing the abortion laws, about whether the use of marijuana should be considered illegal, whether capital punishment is a cruel and inhuman form of punishment, whether the demonstrations and riots at Chicago in connection with the Democratic convention were legal or illegal. For the world—sin—what constitutes a sin or a crime or felony of misdemeanor, what the privileges of the accused are, what the proper procedures for conducting a trial are, what the proper penalties are—all of this is a big concern. But the Comforter was not sent to become involved in all these public controversies. His work is to bring in a conviction against the world in one vital area of sin, an area that concerns every person in the world regardless of whether he’s interested or concerned, informed or uninformed. That is the sin of unbelief over against God’s Son, the world’s Savior. In doing this the Comforter is continuing the work of Jesus. John chapter 8 records one of the many controversies that Jesus had with the Jews in which He kept on making this same conviction against them. He put it in these words; “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he—the One sent of the Father, ye shall die in yours sins.” It was the Holy Spirit who moved St. John to record these words of Jesus. Wherever these and similar words of Scripture are read or preached or heard, the Comforter is at work making His conviction that the one sin that destroys eternally and carries with it an irrevocable and irreversible eternal death sentence is the sin of rejecting Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The Comforter also makes a conviction against the world concerning righteousness—as Jesus said, “inasmuch as I go away to the Father, and you behold me no more.” This is also a field in which the world is greatly occupied. Righteousness is the state of being right or acceptable. The world, of course, considers it as self-evident that when it considers someone righteous, good, acceptable, decent, acquitted, forgiven—then God should automatically agree to the judgment of the world. The ancient Greeks spent much time trying to determine what is good, what is virtue, what is decent, what is righteous in the sight of the state and so also in the sight of the gods. The Middle Ages were governed by the laws of Feudalism and chivalry, which set down a code of behavior for all classes of people. The rise of capitalism changed the emphasis and the code. The rise of the dictatorships after the first World War belabored the idea that might is right and makes right or righteous. Today our society is in a state of upheaval. What’s the big discussion? It centers upon what is righteousness. What is acceptable conduct? What are the standards according to which men are to live and die? The old standards of morality are giving way to what is called “the new morality.” The old idea of settling our problems in a democratic way is giving way to the idea that revolutionary force is the righteous way to bring about change. All of this turmoil has to do with righteousness—what people, what society considers right, proper, acceptable. And always the unexpressed understanding is that God must agree with what man decides in these matters. Again the Holy Ghost does not tour the country or the world lecturing and trying to make a conviction in regard to these matters. But He is concerned about righteousness—about the status of man’s being right with His God. But notice that when Jesus speaks of this righteousness, He speaks of it in connection with His going to the Father and His disciples seeing Him no more. This means that the only righteousness that will stand before God is the righteousness worked out by Jesus on His mission to earth. St. Paul was proclaiming this righteousness in his sermon at Antioch (Acts l3) when He told the Jews that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins was being preached unto them and that this forgiveness would give all those who accepted it justification or righteousness in all areas where the law of Moses failed. Again the Holy Spirit caused that sermon to be recorded, as well as many other similar statements which hammer home this same conviction—that the only righteousness that will stand the test of divine inspection is to be found in Christ. He is our Righteousness. Without Him there is no effective righteousness—despite the unending discussions of the world.
The Comforter also makes a conviction in regard to judgment. His conviction is that the prince of this world is judged. Just saying that reveals how foreign it is to the thinking of the world. The post World War II Nuremberg trials made judgments concerning war criminals. The courts of all nations and the court of public opinion are making judgments, and that constantly. But what history book, what law book, what newspaper, what magazine article concerns itself over the fact that the prince of this world, the devil, Satan, has been judged. If the matter were or could be seriously brought up in any public forum, no doubt most people would hardly be able to believe their ears. “So what?” would probably be a common response. But the Comforter is concerned with the fact that the prince of this world has been cast out, that Satan has been bound, that judgment has been rendered against him, that he is wearing the chains of the eternally damned. Why is this such a vital concern? Because it is of greatest importance and of sweetest comfort to know that he who introduced sin into the world, that he whose aim and object is to deceive and seduce mankind; that the murderer of the human race has been judged. We can now sing with Luther: “One little word can fell him!’
The work of the Comforter over against the world is in the nature of that of a prosecuting attorney. He works for a conviction in the area of sin, righteousness, and judgment. When that conviction is felt and recognized by men in the world, it reveals the spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness of man. In such a case the Spirit never leaves the person just hanging there. He fills in with Christ and His righteousness and victory over the prince of this world. He makes men of this world disciples of Christ, and then He continues to work with them—
Jesus told His disciples on that night of His betrayal, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” They were not psychologically, nor spiritually in the right mood for learning. The reason was the oppressive sorrow that burdened their souls because they knew Jesus was leaving them.
But Jesus directed them to the future, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” The work of the Spirit is not to detract from Christ and attract attention unto Himself. The Holy Ghost is not in competition with Christ for the hearts of men. No, rather, “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” The work of the Comforter is to glorify Christ in the hearts and minds of men. He does that by continuing to exalt the person and work of Christ.
The Comforter’s work can be considered an unending battle for the hearts and loyalties of men, women, and children. He strives to win people for Christ. His business is to set up the rule of Christ in human hearts. And He does that continuously through the naked Word and the visible Word in sacramental form. While parents read Bible stories to their children and help them with their memory verses and explain catechism and Bible truths to them, while Sunday School teachers instruct their children in the facts, truths, and application of Bible stories, when the pastor reads the Scriptures and explains and applies a given text, the Comforter is at work. His whole work is glorifying Jesus in our hearts and lives. He would convince us that there never was a person like Jesus, who became man in order to fulfill all righteousness for us and suffer and die to take away our guilt, but who was also true God so that He could succeed in fulfilling all righteousness and in taking away our sin and guilt. He would convince us that we can find divine forgiveness for our sins and divine covering for our unrighteousness in none other than in Jesus. He would convince us that despite all appearances to the contrary our Lord Jesus is ruling all things in heaven and in earth in the interest of His Kingdom. He would convince us that living unto the Lord—loving, serving, and obeying Him—is the only truly God-pleasing way of living our lives. “He shall glorify me.” May God grant that the Spirit achieves His work in us!. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.